Psychotherapy effects on the mind-body system


The biological correlates of psychotherapy resonate greatly since the breaking up of the old idea of mind, brain, body as rigidly unconnected. Over the last decade, the ever-improving neuroimaging techniques demonstrated that “mind and brain are two sides of the same neuronal coin” (Solms & Turnbull, 2004). Furthermore, the progress in knowledge about neurotransmitters and the body has improved psychosomatic studies, which highlighted the influence of psychological aspects over the whole body. Steering clear of biological reductionism, daily clinical practice also brings every psychotherapist to face his/her patients’ soma, as well as their psychic inner world and, indirectly, their brain. As “mechanics of mind”, keeping interconnections between brain, mind, and body in view may enrich clinical practice and activate comprehensive care without confusing different areas of professional expertise. The aim of this paper is threefold: 1) to introduce the contributions made by neurobiology and epigenetics; 2) to describe neuroimaging studies pointing out the effects of psychotherapy on the brain; 3) to investigate the effects of psychotherapy on the body and specifically on immune-endocrine aspects, analyzing the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal-mediated stress responses.