(Note: This article was originally posted elsewhere, but we are posting it here also to give you additional background on how the Brain Training Centers of Florida are helping patients improve their mental health, and their life.)
A Miami-based counselor has adapted a new approach to mental health: read, then read very carefully, then read some more and even more carefully, and, finally, put into practice what you’re reading.
“There’s now a great deal of very practical material available for men and women with a wide range of emotional problems,” observes Francis J. Flynn, Psy.D., CAP, director of the Brain Training Centers of Florida. “Most importantly, the latest scientific discoveries – especially in the field of neuroplasticity – are being put in terms laymen and women can understand and begin to implement,” said Flynn, who earned his Doctor of Psychology degree from Nova South Eastern University in 1986 and is a Florida Certified Addictions Professional (counselor).
“We’ve moved away from the idea that the adult brain is cast in stone and cannot change,” notes Flynn. “Developments in neuroplasticity – the idea that the brain can actually develop new and effective brain cells designed specifically to address newly emerging skills or new learning – is probably the most important development in the world of neuropsychology, and potentially in the world of counseling, since Dr. Freud and Erik Erikson began to introduce ideas of human emotional development.”
Flynn points to a number of works that he describes as range from “pedantic, everything- you-never-wanted-to-know-about specific subjects – sort of the Moby Dicks of the neurosciences” to “‘WOW! This is great!” new and relatively easy reading.”
At the top of Dr. Flynn’s “just plain practical” list is Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Excise and the Brain by John J. Rately with Eric Hagerman. “Despite all of the scientific terms and his references to brain chemistry, he puts into relatively plain language just how effectively exercise can be used to help people experience significant improvements from depression, anxiety and a wide range of other problems.”
Sharon Begley’s Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How A New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary PotentialTo Transform Ourselves was born, of all places, in Dharamsala, India, the home-in-exile of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama periodically convenes multi-day seminars with some of the world’s top scientists. Begley, a science writer for the Wall Street Journal provides insight into and the history many of the 2004 presentations on neuroplasticity to the Nobel Prize winning Buddhist leader. Neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to change its structures and functions by expanding nerve cell circuits that are used frequently and by shrinking or weakening those that are infrequently or rarely used. Neuroplasticity opens the possibility that the brain can be deliberately altered through the practice of specific tasks.
“Ultimately, neuroplasticity has tremendous potential for the future design of counseling and therapy techniques, the treatment of addictions, depression, anxiety, stress, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” notes Flynn. “It can certainly be argued that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and AA and other Twelve Step programs, when practiced regularly and with deliberate intention, take advantage of specific elements of plasticity – building new neural systems that, over time, become the brain’s preferred pathways, as opposed to the older, counterproductive pathways. As with exercise, it can become a case of use-it-or-lose-it in cognitively-emotionally healthy lifestyles.”
Fifty years ago, it took almost a decade for the totality of human knowledge to double. “Today, our total knowledge doubles just about every two years and the worlds of science and medicine, especially about the human brain, are leading the field,” said Flynn. “And this increasing store of knowledge can be a great source of encouragement and hope for all of us, especially if we are dealing with any kind of mental health issue.”
Flynn, who is a co-founder of the Brain Training Center of Florida, encourages his clients to spend time in any major bookstore. “Grab the most recently published books on the brain you can find; check out the author’s background to make sure that he or she is well educated; and, just read a few pages to make sure that the material is understandable to you,” he urges his clients. “Then head home and read, read, read.”