Principles of Neuropsychodynamic Therapy

  • Peter HartwichEmail author
  • Heinz Boeker
  • Georg Northoff


Neuropsychodynamics refers to the social embedded brain and the relation between the individual brain, environment, and the subjective experience of the personal identity over time. We do not know how the brain transforms its neuronal activities into mental features, but we know that it is a fact.

In many psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other psychiatric illnesses, we assume abnormalities of the spatiotemporal self. Many symptoms, not all, of these diseases can be seen as an attempt to reorganize the self and its brain-based spatiotemporal relation to the world.

This approach offers novel treatment options with the aim to develop strategies to modulate the spatiotemporal structure of the resting state’s alignment to the world by applying spatially and temporally modulating stimuli. This could be done by, e.g., creative therapies and other neuropsychodynamic therapeutic methods in the sense of top-down modulation. In the sense of bottom-up modulation, this could also be done by psychopharmaceuticals, magnetic stimulation, etc.

The main question is how functional activity of the brain is influenced by therapeutic methods. The basis of neuropsychodynamic treatment is the patient-therapist relationship with their fitting, transference, and countertransference. Neurobiological and psychological changes go hand in hand and influence each other.


  1. Abély P. Le signe du miroir dans les psychoses et plus spécialement dans la démence précoce. Ann Med Psychol. 1930;88:28–36.Google Scholar
  2. Arieti S. Creativity. The magic synthesis. New York: Basic Books; 1976.Google Scholar
  3. Boeker H. Psychotherapie der depression. Bern: Huber/Hogrefe AG; 2011.Google Scholar
  4. Damasio A. The feeling of what happens. London: Heinemann; 1999.Google Scholar
  5. Delmas FA. Le signe du miroir dans la démence précoce. Ann Med Psychol. 1929;87:227–33.Google Scholar
  6. Freud S. The dynamics of transference, Vol. 12. Standard Edition. New York: Norton; 1912. P. 97–108.Google Scholar
  7. Freud S. Neurosis and psychosis, Vol. 19. Standard Edition. London: Hogarth; 1926. P. 385–91.Google Scholar
  8. Gabbard GO. Psychodynamic psychiatry in clinical practice. 5th ed. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2014.Google Scholar
  9. Hartwich P. Psychodynamisch orientierte Therapieverfahren bei Schizophrenien. In: Hartwich P, Barocka A, editors. Schizophrene Erkrankungen. Sternenfels: Wissenschaft & Praxis; 2007. p. 33–98.Google Scholar
  10. Hartwich P, Fryrear JL. Creativity, the third therapeutic principle in psychiatry. Sternenfels: Wissenschaft & Praxis; 2002.Google Scholar
  11. Hartwich P, Lehmkuhl G. Audiovisual self-confrontation in schizophrenia. Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr. 1979;227:341–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Huang Z, Obara N, Davis H, Pokorny J, Northoff G. The temporal structure of resting-state brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex predicts self-consciousness. Neuropsychologia. 2016;82(2016):161–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kandel ER. Psychotherapy and the single synapse: the impact of psychiatric thought on neurobiological research. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2001;13:290–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kandel ER. Das Zeitalter der Erkenntnis. Die Erforschung des Unbewussten in Kunst, Geist und Gehirn von der Wiener Moderne bis heute. München: Siedler/Random House GmbH; 2012.Google Scholar
  15. Kernberg OF. Objektbeziehungen und Praxis der Psychoanalyse. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta; 1985.Google Scholar
  16. Laplanche J, Pontalis JB. Das Vokabular der Psychoanalyse. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp; 1972.Google Scholar
  17. Latour B. Existenzweisen. Berlin: Suhrkamp; 2014.Google Scholar
  18. Mundo E. Neurobiology of dynamic psychotherapy: an integration possible? J Am Acad Psychoanal Dyn Psychiatry. 2006;34(4):679–91. Scholar
  19. Northoff G, Heinzel A, de Greck M, Bermpol F, Dobrowolny H, Panksepp J. Self-referential processing in our brain–a metanalysis of imaging studies on the self. Neuroimage. 2006;31:440–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Northoff G, et al. Differential parametric modulation of the self-relatedness and emotions in different brain regions. Hum Brain Mapp. 2009;30(2):369–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Northoff G. Neuropsychoanalysis in practice. New York: Oxford University Press; 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Northoff G. Unlocking the brain. Consciousness, vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2014.Google Scholar
  23. Northoff G. Neuro-philosophy and the healthy mind: learning from the unwell brain. New York: Norton; 2016.Google Scholar
  24. Sartre JP. Being and nothingness. An essay on phenomenological ontology. Translated and with an introduction by Barnes HE. New York: Philosophical Library Inc.; 1956.Google Scholar
  25. Scharfetter C. Schizophrene Menschen. 2nd ed. München: Urban & Schwarzenberg; 1986.Google Scholar
  26. Solms M, Turnbull O. The brain and the inner world. An introduction to the neuroscience of subjective experience. London: Karnac; 2002.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, PsychosomaticsGeneral Hospital of Frankfurt am Main, Teaching Hospital University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and PsychosomaticsPsychiatric University Hospital Zurich, University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Mind, Brain Imaging, and Neuroethics, Institute of Mental Health ResearchUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations