When we're talking about psychobiology, we're talking, really, about the brain and the body. And we're looking at five domains—the first being attachment. And by attachment I mean infant attachment as well as adult attachment.
The second domain is arousal regulation. We focus on preparatory, or anticipatory, systems that work alongside the attachment system, and that are embedded in procedural memory. These anticipatory systems prepare us for moving toward and away from others, based on history and experience. And this is read through the body —through the face, the eyes, the pupils, the voice or prosody of the voice, skin color, temperature, movement, posture, and so on.
The third domain is neurobiological development. We take a deficit-based approach, not a conflict-based approach, meaning that we don't really focus on conflict. We don't focus on what most people —couples, at least —bring into therapy as a presenting problem: money, sex, mess, kids, and time. That is what most everybody complains about.
Rather, we look at the couple's ability to be a co-regulatory team--to be able to manage each other, particularly during distress.
Rather, we look at the couple's ability to be a co-regulatory team--to be able to manage each other, particularly during distress. How good are they during stress? Everybody has conflicts, as John Gottman says. Every couple has conflict. We're looking to see how a couple handles conflict and whether they handle it in a secure functioning manner or in an insecure functioning manner.
The fourth domain is therapeutic enactment. We work with procedural memory. We work with the body, with a bottom-up approach. In other words, rather than use interpretation, we stage experiences so that couples have an enactment, or certain state of mind, state of body, online to work with. So it's really experience before interpretation.
RW:What are some examples of these?
ST:It's using a lot of psychodrama —going back to Moreno, but also Gestalt, pulling from Satir. By basically moving people into experience, using a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach, we avoid tapping into higher cortical areas first, which are really good at error correcting, really good at processing, but can also mislead the therapist.
In other words, higher level cognitive processing is not as reliable as the body. So we want to get at the body first.
And then the fifth domain is therapeutic narrative. This is the therapist's own stance about why couples should be together. It has to be a coherent narrative that, along with theory, explains where the couple has been, what their trajectory is, why they are where they are, and where they're going. The narrative is grounded in secure functioning relationship, as opposed to an insecure functioning relationship.