An enactive approach for psychiatry and (psycho-)therapy

In their daily practice, psychiatrists are confronted with human problems triggered by factors as diverse as traumas, chemical imbalances, existential worries, genetic risks, and relational conflicts. One of the most interesting and difficult questions in the field of psychiatry is how these heterogeneous factors are related. This is no mere theoretical concern: what is seen as the primary cause of the problems typically influences the conception of the illness and the choice of treatment. One common way of relating these heterogeneous aspects is through neuro-reductionism: the assumption that in the end only what happens in the brain matters. Such a reductionist approach to psychiatry however has several pragmatic and ethical disadvantages; downplaying the causal role of psychological and existential processes and over-simplifying the complexity of the development of psychiatric problems. On the other hand, a mere non-theoretical pluralism will not be of help either as it does not provide any order or relation between the various factors. An integrative alternative could be developed from enactivism. Enactivism is a relatively new scientific paradigm in the cognitive sciences which draws on dynamical systems theory, phenomenology, and systems biology, amongst other disciplines. Its main tenet is that cognition should not be located exclusively within the brain, but that cognition rather depends on brain, body, and environment together: the idea is that cognitive processes emerge from the ongoing interactions of a person with their social and physical environment. As such, enactivism offers a promising non-reductive approach to the nature, causes, and treatment of psychiatric disorders. We will organize a 3-day workshop on an enactive approach to psychiatry and its practical relevance for psychiatric treatment, notably psychotherapy. We want to critically explore the potential merits and pitfalls of an enactive approach and use the interdisciplinary setting to tune the theory to the needs of psychiatric research and therapeutic practice. The scientific objectives of this workshop are thus to: (a) bring together philosophers, psychiatrists, and mental health therapists to discuss and elaborate an enactive theoretical foundation for psychiatry; (b) critically assess the framework’s integrative power (i.e. how well it connects psychiatry’s various heterogeneous aspects in a non-reductionist way); (c) further develop the enactive framework to better support psychiatry’s therapeutic practice.

Principal Investigators
de Haan, Sanneke Dr. (Details) (Berlin School of Mind and Brain)

Duration of Project
Start date: 10/2017
End date: 11/2017

Research Areas

Last updated on 2020-01-06 at 18:52