Relationships are the Key

3 R's by Perry

I just read an interesting blog published at about a seminar that the author went to featuring Dr. Bruce Perry and the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). The author spoke about the seminar and the importance of Dr. Perry’s work.  I thought I would give you a quick summary of his thoughts.

In the first part of the seminar Dr. Perry states that the brain is responsible for everything we do. When a child has problems, the cause is usually some kind of developmental delay in some area of the brain. The trick is to identify what part of the brain has not developed appropriately and focus interventions to impact that area.

Dr. Perry believes that often the diagnosis of childhood trauma is a very tentative matter since categorization is based on results (or symptoms) instead of causes. This means diagnoses and drug interventions are more a trial and error process relating to observations of symptoms rather than based on isolating and treating the root cause of the problematic behavior which is the brain.

NMT therapy puts forth that the brain is constantly changing and develops in the growing child in sequence, roughly from the lower part to the upper part. The brain develops through the life experience of the child, in a sequence where vulnerability differs with age, that is, different areas of the brain are developing at different times. For proper development the brain must be exposed to the proper stimulation at the time the brain is ready to develop that area. How well each area develops depends on the life experience of the child at that time.

In the seminar Dr. Perry explained that cortical function of the brain is highly developed through the child learning to speak and read. In addition to those basic useful skills, this also teaches the all-important ability of self-control. He pointed out experience has shown that one of the best techniques to stop former inmates from returning to prison is teaching the inmates to read or to improve their reading and speaking skills.

Dr. Perry believes that the best biological intervention for problematical behaviors and brain organization or re-organization is human interaction. He points out that humans are not designed for the world in which we now live. Humans need small groups working with other small groups.  Relational health is vital to proper brain development throughout life and vital to a successful life. One of the most destructive aspects to proper development is a poverty of relationships. Dr. Perry used this poverty of consistent relationships as a major reason our foster system of childcare has such problems.

Dr. Perry goes on to explain that poverty of relationships creates stress, which creates a hunger for the reward that should have come from positive relationships. As a result, substitutes are selected for that craving such as drinking, drugs or other unhealthy behaviors. Treatment is based on developing an environment for the child of healthy relationships, where the child has enough moderate stress to feel safe enough to explore without being overwhelmed with unpredictable events creating harmful stress. A safe environment with moderate novelty for the brain to learn and develop will allow the brain to heal and reorganize from the unhealthy development from earlier life experiences.

I will end with a quote from the author summarizing what he walked away with: “The key thing in NMT is a change in focus. Instead of looking at symptoms and a checklist as a guide, the clinician looks beyond symptoms, to the brain as the root cause of the problematic behaviors. Treatment is then focused on healing the brain, which will take care of the problematical behaviors.” If you would like to read more about this model and its use at Family Christian Counseling Center please click on the button below.

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