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What is IPNB?



Integration: The easy and reciprocal energy and information flow between differentiated and linked brain systems.

INTERPERSONAL NEUROBIOLOGY (IPNB) is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the mind and mental health. It is a term coined by Dr. Dan Siegel in his 1999 book, The Developing Mind. It seeks to integrate many ways of understanding what it is to be human, including many disciplines of science, most notably neuroscience and biology, mathematics, anthropology, the arts, dance, music, and spiritual traditions.


Dr. Siegel has defined 9 levels of integration in the brain and we use that map to help us define what impediments are keeping our clients from living their most flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized and stable life.

This a framework that allows us to deepen our understanding of how the mind, the brain and relationships work and therefore organize our tools to help clients more efficiently. These three entities, the mind, the brain and our relationships, are both differentiated processes and intricately linked as they move together to create our lived experiences. We study details of brain function across various parts of the brain, but we also study the larger flow that occurs when varies differentiated sections come together to create more complex functions such as curiosity or compassion. Having a healthy, flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized and stable experience in life requires the various brain functions to be integrated with each other and to integrate with minds outside of ourselves as our relationships shift how we experience our world.

Here are some of the tenets that IPNB therapists subscribe to:

1. We can define mental health, but not by behavior. It is not for us to say which path, which joys, which adventures are the right ones for you. When we are striving to help clients find deeper peace and health we are looking at a measure that is used in complexity theory. A complex system is at its most functional when it is Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized and Stable. What we often call FACES flow. Our brains are very similar to ant hills, clouds and beehives. We also have complexity that originates from a rather small set of rules (such as "release this neurotransmitter when neuron a gives the excitatory signal). We know something from complexity theory about how these types of systems function most optimally and we apply that to the brain as well.


2. We know that most of the resources you need are already inside you. We generally run into problems due to external and internal impediments rather than through brokenness or deficit within a person. Our primary job as therapists is to help you to identify those blocks and move them so that your internal resources can shine through. “Our brains are always on the path toward greater complexity and coherence, hampered in their natural course only by constraints, many of which can be changed, particularly within empathetic relationships.” –BONNIE BADENOCH


3.  Our early relational history matters. When we are born we are not blank slates, we come with DNA that prescribes certain aspects of how we make sense of the world, such as how sensitive my system is to stimuli such as sound, color texture or visceral sensation. We combine those inborn traits with our early environment, especially our early relationships. The early environment becomes part of the fabric of who we become, as unquestioned as gravity as subconscious as knowing how to breath.


4.  Our bodies are part of every memory.  Every time we remember something we send energy through the brain creating a neural network that contains five elements: sensation, image, behavior, feeling and meaning. We do this most often without our conscious knowledge as, it turns out, our brains operate partially from memory all of the time. Because sensation, feeling and movement are born in the body, the body is part of every memory.


5. Our brains can and do change all the time.  Neuroplasticity is real, when we feel surprise that is the visceral experience of your brain creating brand new connection. Yay! Change is possible.


6. Neural integration is the foundation for increasing well being and can be fostered in interpersonal relationships. The minds greatest states of wellness occur when processes are differentiated and then linked. This is called integration. There are many leagues deeper to go in understanding how our non-verbal right brain attuned connections contribute to this process, but we do know that they do. Having a fully accepting connection with another person, with whom you can feel free to be fully yourself without fear of judgment is essential of the deepest brain integration.


7. Healing as well as healthy living requires the presence of both right and left mode processing. The two hemispheres of our brain function differently and have different, equally important jobs. We strive to help clients find balance in these functions and be able to lean into both in a whole brained way.


8. Mindful attention is one key agent of change. One of the most healing processes available to us is to create distance from our own experience in a way that we can caringly observe our own struggles and triumphs. Mindful attention is about approaching yourself without judgment and without agenda but in acceptance of whatever is here. Through this process of acceptance we are most likely to find lasting change.


9. The therapist's mental health matters. None of us are perfect and all of our therapists know that to be the best therapist we can be we must be constantly engaging in our own growth process. That is why we all attend regular personal therapy, supervision, consultation and continuing education. We want to create a space that feels safe, warm, open, playful and accepting and that can only be done when we are in a good FACES flow ourselves.

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