How Can a Brain Scan Make Psychotherapy Work Faster?

How Can a Brain Scan Make Psychotherapy Work Faster


Dave and Bonnie were getting frustrated with marital therapy. They had been going to an experienced therapist for three years and had spent a lot of money trying to save their marriage, but they weren’t making any progress. Despite the strategies and relationship tools the therapist had taught them, they were still bickering and feeling unhappy in their marriage. Dave was admittedly a big part of the problem. He had been a nice, thoughtful guy when they first married, but now he would explode with anger, was narcissistic, and antisocial, and he wasn’t getting any better from the psychotherapy sessions.

After much consideration, the therapist finally gave the couple an “F” in marital therapy and told them it was time to get divorced… unless they wanted to try one last option—getting brain scans to see if there might be some other underlying issue.

What Brain Scans Can Reveal About Psychotherapy Patients

Bonnie and Dave agreed and underwent brain imaging tests called SPECT, which measures blood flow and activity in the brain. The results changed everything. All of a sudden, it became clear why they weren’t having any success with marital therapy despite having a great therapist. And they realized why therapy probably never would have worked for them no matter how many years they devoted to it.

Bonnie’s brain scan looked healthy. Dave’s, however, looked very unhealthy—shriveled and full of holes. Dave’s brain pattern is one that is commonly seen in people who abuse drugs or alcohol. But Dave swore he didn’t drink or use drugs, and Bonnie confirmed it. “That is not his problem,” Bonnie said. “He’s just a jerk.”

Why Did Dave’s Brain Look so Toxic?

Other than drug or alcohol abuse, there are many things that can contribute to a toxic-looking brain, including brain infections, hypothyroidism, and environmental toxins. The problem became clear when Dave said he worked in a factory finishing furniture. The chemicals and solvents Dave was using every day at work were eating away at his brain.

No wonder he was acting like such a jerk. And no wonder he was incapable of following through on any of the proven strategies the therapist had taught him. No amount of psychotherapy was going to heal Dave’s brain.

Healing Dave’s Brain

Dave took a medical leave of absence and eventually returned to a job at the factory that didn’t involve exposure to harmful chemicals. With a treatment plan focused on healing his brain, Dave made great strides.

For Bonnie, understanding that her husband’s problem was biological in nature made her more willing to support him as he went through treatment. When Dave’s brain was healthier, he was finally able to put the relationship tools and strategies from therapy into practice, and their marriage improved. Divorce was no longer on the table.

5 Ways Brain Imaging Can Help Psychotherapy

1. Like with Dave, getting a SPECT brain scan can reveal underlying biological factors, such as abnormal blood flow or activity, that may be contributing to behavioral issues that prevent you from getting what you need out of therapy.

2. Brain imaging helps you get a more accurate diagnosis, so you can get more effective treatment for any brain-related issues.

3. By healing the brain, it makes it easier to follow through with the strategies and tools provided in psychotherapy—whether it’s couples therapy, family therapy, individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or some other form.

4. When your brain is working right, you can take full advantage of psychotherapy, which can be a very powerful piece of a treatment plan.

5. Brain scans eliminate the guesswork involved with psychotherapy, which helps you get the benefits faster.

Dave was scanned, diagnosed, and treated at the Amen Clinics, where brain imaging and lab work are essential components of the evaluation process. If you aren’t making the progress you’d like to in psychotherapy and would like to investigate potential causes, speak to a specialist today by calling 888-288-9834. You can also schedule a visit online.



  1. I have been diagnosed with bipolar II, OCD, and ADD. My psychiatrist is amazing at finding drugs that either kind of help or stop helping after some period of time. Lately the anxiety has reached a fever pitch. Can brain scans accurately show what is truly going on in my brain or will they just show the effects the medication have on my brain? Also, I don’t think you all take insurance, what payment options do your clinics offer?

    Comment by Anne — June 1, 2019 @ 8:34 PM

  2. Can a brain scan help show the cause of a 53 year-old mother’s back problems and need for hip-replacement surgery?

    Comment by Sharon — June 7, 2019 @ 3:38 AM

  3. Can you tell the part of the brain that is affected by the lack of dopamine? I was diagnosed with Parkinsonism, namely cortcobasil degeneration. My right hand has lost all of its fine motor skills. I am in a hell of a fix as I was right handed.

    Comment by Jane Maciejewski — June 7, 2019 @ 7:58 AM

  4. But how do you HEAL the brain? Is it possible to fix the “holes” as was mentioned in this article? How?

    Comment by Sima B. — June 7, 2019 @ 10:04 AM

  5. I have inquired several time on how and where I can get a scan in Canada. I live in Oakville, Ontario not too far from Toronto, Ontario and Hamilton Ontario. Both have teaching hospital.

    I have never received a response from you. Maybe this time

    Comment by Linda Picheca — June 7, 2019 @ 1:24 PM

  6. Hello Sima, yes it is possible to restore blood flow to the areas where blood flow is lacking (the “holes” we refer to). We offer an array of the least toxic, most effective treatment methods for our patients:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 7, 2019 @ 2:24 PM

  7. Hello Sharon, this may require a longer conversation. We will reach out to you via email to learn more! Thank you for reaching out!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 7, 2019 @ 2:27 PM

  8. I’m 70 and have been in therapy for 40+years for depression and anxiety. It seems the conditions have been managed for the years but not resulted. What can I expect from a brain scan

    Comment by Ann L. — June 9, 2019 @ 12:53 PM

  9. The hospital in Oakville does them. Ask your family dr for a referral. It should be covered by OHIP. Good luck

    Comment by Marie — July 2, 2019 @ 9:34 AM

  10. I went through a Spect scan when I was 57 years old. It was highly suggestive of frontal-temporal dementia. There was polar flattening in the front and I was told it was very dire. They also told me that I would likely die of it by 60. I am 70 years old now. I have lived with this fear for all these years. I almost didn’t treat my breast cancer due to it. Well, here I am, still alive and lucid.

    Comment by Kathy Weir — October 4, 2019 @ 8:48 AM

  11. My 17 year old daughter has ADD, OCD and anxiety. She needs help. I live in Colorado. Where is the nearest clinic for a scan. What happens after she is scanned, to help her heal?

    Comment by Dawn Steel — October 4, 2019 @ 8:51 AM

  12. Where can a person get a scan, who lives in l Oregon, also what does something like this cost?

    Comment by Christine — October 5, 2019 @ 9:47 AM

  13. Hello Christine, thank you for reaching out. At this time we have 8 locations in the U.S. ( If you’re unable to travel to one of our locations, we are happy to provide referrals to you in your area of practices that utilize brain SPECT imaging and/or The Amen Clinics Method. We will reach out to you directly with more information on referrals and cost. Thank you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — October 8, 2019 @ 6:42 AM

  14. Hello Dawn, thank you for reaching out. At this time we have 8 locations in the U.S. ( If you’re unable to travel to one of our locations, we are happy to provide referrals to you in your area of practices that utilize brain SPECT imaging and/or The Amen Clinics Method. We will reach out to you directly with more information on referrals and the process of treatment following a brain SPECT scan. Thank you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — October 8, 2019 @ 6:43 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us