In a nutshell, neuroplasticity refers to the idea that the brain’s structure is flexible and can be altered (even in adulthood). Psychoneuroplasticity (PNP) is the use of treatment methods such as brain mapping to rewire, or “renew,” the brain in order to produce lifelong changes in behavior, thoughts, and emotions.
Due to the effectiveness of PNP, it has become increasingly popular for the treatment of brain damage and training of the brain. Researchers show that psychoneuroplasticity works especially well in the context of goal-directed therapeutic programs, where psychiatrists use techniques like functional electrical stimulation, virtual reality therapy, and constraint-induced movement therapy to rewire the brain.
According to findings in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews and Journal of Neuroscience, addiction alters the neuronal mechanisms of plasticity in the brain, inhibiting the individual from remembering things or recovering from injuries or disorders.
Damage to the brain caused by addiction often cannot be solved with simple solutions. Some of the more serious damaging effects such as seizures and impaired brain circuits need psychoneuroplasticity to produce real changes. As repetitive drug use leads to functional impairment, so will consistent PNP therapy restore brain functioning. You will see real long-lasting changes in the way a loved one makes decisions, reacts to stress and responds to natural rewards (e.g., food, sex, and social interactions).
Psychoneuroplasticity is an individualized approach that focuses on healing, building, and restoring awareness. Holistic methods such as dietary improvements, yoga exercises, massage therapy, acupuncture, healing breathing patterns, and equine therapy contribute to the first phase of PNP. In the second phase, the addiction psychiatrist builds up the person’s self-esteem and takes an inventory of his or her strengths. By having individuals recite their strengths, this creates pathways in the brain for untapped, unlimited positive potential. In association with joyful sensory stimuli, the brain is more apt to change. In the final phase of PNP, the individual achieves transpersonal awareness; by providing a “safe space” for the person to explore who he/she is, the addiction psychiatrist assists the individual in letting go of fear and embracing all the positives that life has to offer through mindful meditation and breathing. This relieves the brain of stress, anxiety, guilt and regret and restores “wholeness.”