Theory and Applications
Edited by Eve Mitleton-Kelly, Alexandros Paraskevas and Christopher Day
Chapter 26: Dynamical systems therapy (DST): complex adaptive systems in psychiatry and psychotherapy
The synthesis of complexity and nonlinear science with evolutionary theory informs both functional neuroscience and psychotherapeutic exploration of conscious and unconscious processes. The nonlinear dynamical systems approach allows psychiatric practitioners to shift from categorical diagnostic and treatment algorithms to integrative process models of individual and group dynamics. Dynamical systems therapy (DST) represents a complexity derived application that conceptualizes individuals as Complex Adaptive Systems with emergent properties of subjective and cultural experience. It puts self-organization and flexible adaptation to changing environmental demands at the cornerstone of psychological health. Within the DST model, recurrent patterns of feeling, thinking and relating can be analysed by using modified fitness diagrams (adaptive A-landscapes), which integrate objective, subjective and intersubjective clinical data. This approach allows to chart the patient’s unique life trajectory through attractor/repellor configurations and reveals a paradigm shift from reductionism towards systemic psychobiology conceptualized as an integrative scientific perspective that incorporates emergent levels of psychobiological complexity.
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