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Neuroscience and Telemental Health

Dr. Jennifer Sweeton, neuroscientist, clinical and forensic psychologist, best-selling author, and expert on trauma, talks with Ray Barrett from Telehealth Certification Institute about neuroscience and telemental health services.  Dr. Sweeton offers her passion and unparalleled insight about how mental health professionals can activate neurological processes with clients using various telemental health platforms. She will both shock and inspire you with her insight about services and the ways that clients can benefit from them.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shocking the world in 2020, many mental health practitioners began to utilize various telemental health services with their clients.  Dr. Sweeton and her research on these topics allow clinicians to gain insight and understanding of the fundamentals of telemental health as it relates to the services that we provide our clients.

One of the things that we hear about often in neuroscience is mirror neurons.  Dr. Sweeton explains that most of the information that we have about mirror neurons has come from research with animals and that we really do not have a great understanding of mirror neurons as they relate specifically to human beings. She explains that this is due to how difficult it is to develop research studies that allow us to look at mirror neurons in humans.  The good thing about this though is that it allows for plenty of opportunities for researchers to explore this more, especially with the significant increase in telemental health services in recent years.

So, what do we know about mirror neurons then? Dr. Sweeton shares that mirror neurons can be activated just by watching other people do things.  This can stimulate a sense of empathy.  Watching others do things can also elicit an emotional, physical, and visceral reaction from people.  We also know that we learn a lot about people through their nonverbal cues.  She explains that the energy a person gives off, and their body language often have a deeper meaning than the things that they say.

Because mirror neurons can be activated by nonverbal communication, this means that mental health practitioners can facilitate successful sessions by telemental health services and obtain results that are comparable to those of in-person sessions. Clinicians can pay attention to body movement, eye contact, and where the attention and focus of their clients are being targeted.  While telemental health services may not catch everything that in-person sessions may offer, they are still effective.  Mirror neurons can even be activated by telephone and text communication between clients and practitioners! 

Dr. Sweeton offers some insightful tips that mental health practitioners can utilize in order to make their telemental health sessions with clients as effective as possible.  One thing that she mentions is following the lead of the client and offering services that they are most comfortable with.  Clients might even benefit more from telemental health services than from in-person sessions, depending on their presenting concerns. Dr. Sweeton also explains that it is important for mental health practitioners to be educated on and understand the benefits and effectiveness of telemental health services.  Having this knowledge will allow clinicians to have faith in the services they are offering and allow the process to be more effective. 

The expertise offered by Dr. Sweeton in this interview is vital to the work of mental health practitioners who are offering telemental health services.  Dr. Sweeton has presented a course for TCI, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy, where you can earn 2 CEs.


About Dr. Sweeton:

Originally trained as a neuroscientist, Dr. Jennifer Sweeton is a clinical and forensic psychologist, Amazon's #1 best-selling author in clinical psychology, and internationally-recognized expert on trauma and the neuroscience of mental health. She is the author of the Trauma Treatment Toolbox (PESI Publishing), Train Your Brain Card Deck (PESI Publishing and Media), Eight Key Brain Areas of Mental Health and Illness (W. W. Norton & Company), and the forthcoming Traumatic Stress Recovery Workbook (New Harbinger Publications, Inc).

Dr. Sweeton completed her doctoral training at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, and the National Center for PTSD. Additionally, she holds a master’s degree in personality psychology (with an emphasis in affective neuroscience) from Stanford University, and studied behavioral genetics and psychopathology at Harvard University. She is a JD Candidate (class of 2024) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Dr. Sweeton resides in the greater Kansas City area, where she owns a group private practice, Kansas City Mental Health Associates. She is the founder and co-owner of a nationwide continuing education company,, which offers high-quality courses to over 15,000 licensed mental health providers. Dr. Sweeton holds an adjunct faculty appointment at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and is a former President of the Greater Kansas City Psychological Association and the Oklahoma Psychological Association.

Dr. Sweeton offers coaching, consultation, trauma-focused psychotherapy, and forensic assessment services to clients worldwide. She is the developer of Neural Desensitization and Integration Training (NDIT), an evidence-informed, module-based psychotherapy for PTSD. Referred to as a “world-renowned trauma treatment expert” by PESI, Dr. Sweeton has trained more than 15,000 mental health professionals in all 50 US states and over 20 countries.