What is Interpersonal Neurobiology?
Interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB) is a conceptual framework which brings together a variety of fields such as education, parenting, contemplation, psychotherapy and sociology. It combines various approaches into one view of being human, a view of the interconnectedness of the human mind, development, relationships, the brain and well-being.
An important IPNB principle is the concept of the mind as a self-organising, emergent process that is both embodied and relational that regulates, as well as arises from, the flow of energy and information within us and between us. Integration is the linkage of differentiated parts which allows the system to achieve harmony. When the system (person or relationship) is not integrated, it becomes rigid or chaotic.
IPNB allows mental health clinicians to recruit the power of neuroscience to explore the various ways in which neural integration can be impaired or facilitated to shape the functioning of the mind. Equally, IPNB also examines the role of relationships that can be integrative and produce well-being or abusive or neglectful relationships that can not honour differences and cultivate linkages so that interpersonal integration is impaired. Research shows that interpersonal integration which is the honouring of differences and promoting compassionate linkages facilitates the growth of integration in the brain itself.
IPNB suggests that the healing moments in psychotherapy occurs when the therapist accurately extracts the meaning of the client’s distress, and successfully maps the client’s distress and contains it with calm and comfort which is called the therapeutic alliance. Imaging studies suggest that as the client associates the therapist with symptom reduction and positive emotions, rewards circuits and other areas in the client’s brain that represent gratifying social interaction are activated. Within the trusting, confiding psychotherapeutic relationship, clients can reflect on their emotionally laden issues in ways that would have been impossible outside therapy. This controlled activation of negative contents helps liberate the client from past constraints, allowing the exploration of new interpersonal possibilities.