Objective: Given striking advances in translational developmental neuroscience and its convergence with developmental psychopathology and developmental epidemiology, it is now clear that mental illnesses are best thought of as neurodevelopmental disorders. This simple fact has enormous implications for the nature and organization of psychotherapy for mentally ill children, adolescents and adults.
Method: This article reviews the ‘trajectory’ of psychosocial interventions in pediatric psychiatry, and makes some general predictions about where this field is heading over the next several decades.
Results: Driven largely by scientific advances in molecular, cellular and systems neuroscience, psychotherapy in the future will focus less on personal narratives and more on the developing brain. In place of disorders as intervention targets, modularized psychosocial treatment components derived from current cognitive-behavior therapies will target corresponding central nervous system (CNS) information processes and their functional behavioral consequences. Either preventive or rehabilitative, the goal of psychotherapy will be to promote development along typical developmental trajectories. In place of guilds, psychotherapy will be organized professionally much as physical therapy is organized today. As with other forms of increasingly personalized health care, internet-based delivery of psychotherapy will become commonplace.
Conclusion: Informed by the new field of translational developmental neuroscience, psychotherapy in the future will take aim at the developing brain in a service delivery model that closely resembles the place and role of psychosocial interventions in the rest of medicine. Getting there will be, as they say, interesting.