Neurohacking in the Time of COVID-19: A Brain-Based Perspective on the Psychotherapeutic Implications of COVID-19

Neurohacking in the Time of COVID-19: A Brain-Based Perspective on the Psychotherapeutic Implications of COVID-19


Thursday, May 28, 2020

1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

3 CE Credits Available for Psychologists, PA/NJ/DE LPCs and LMFTs, and PA/DE Social Workers.


Location: Zoom Videoconferencing


Workshop Description:

There isn’t a facet of life of that hasn’t been touched by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). All of us, and especially our first responders, essential employees, and their families, must adapt to realities and challenges that most have never had to contemplate before.

The pandemic does not spare any communities, but it is hitting some harder than others. People are rightly feeling that they need to maintain a high level of hypervigilance to keep their families and themselves safe. Moreover, emerging research is pointing to the disturbing conclusion that some who contract COVID-19 may face lasting damage to their lungs, hearts, and brains. It is likely that even after the worst is over, we will live with the aftermath of this pandemic for a long time to come.

Adaptation to life in the time of COVID-19 is causing specific changes to the brain and nervous system that are correlated with psychological and social systems. Over the last few years, researchers have discovered more about the brain than in the rest of human history combined. Equipped with new imaging technologies, researchers are pulling back the veil on what happens in the brain when experiencing depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, and chronic pain, and revealing the neural substrate underlying both suffering and healing. Moreover, it is becoming possible to correlate specific psychotherapeutic intervention with positive changes in the brain, and to use neuroscience to select and combine specific therapeutic interventions to maximize therapeutic effect.

In this introductory-level workshop, participants will learn how to integrate insights into the brain into their therapeutic work with clients impacted, directly and indirectly, by COVID-19. Using a biopsychosocial framework built on systemic principles, and drawing on his extensive study of the scientific literature as well as his clinical expertise as a medical family therapist, Mr. Purinton will (1) discuss the challenges that clients may be experiencing at this time and in the coming months, and (2) present brain-based strategies to help their clients improve their outcomes and reduce comorbidities.

Topics will include:

  • How the brain interprets risk, and strategies to help clients recalibrate their sense of risk.
  • The neurophysiological cost of social distancing.
  • The effects of racism on the brain and how this exacerbates preexisting conditions.
  • The role of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in treating depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, and chronic pain.
  • The potential treatment needs of first responders, essential employees, and their families.
  • Interventions to mitigate the potentially long-lasting effects of lung, heart, and brain damage due to COVID-19.
  • Considerations when working with clients who have suffered brain damage and their families.


Level of Difficulty – Introductory


Learning Objectives

After attending this workshop, participants will be able to:

    1. Describe the general roles of the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, and the brain stem in distress.
    2. Explain the concept of neuroplasticity and its implications for treatment.
    3. Explain the importance of catastrophic thinking in the brain’s response to chronic traumatic stress.
    4. Utilize experiential techniques to promote positive neuroplasticity.
    5. Explain when mindfulness is contraindicated, and what alternative interventions to consider.
    6. Discuss the neurophysiological repercussions of social distancing.
    7. Identify biopsychosocial risk factors associated with being a first responder or other “essential employee” and interventions to mitigate these risks.
    8. Discuss potential challenges in treating clients with brain damage and identify interventions to help clients and their families manage these challenges.


About the Presenter:

Matthew Purinton, MSW, LCSW has served as a staff therapist at Council for Relationships for over 12 years. Matthew earned his master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, where he also completed coursework in chronic pain management through the Nurse Practitioner program at the School of Nursing. In addition, he pursued training in hypnosis, mindfulness, and EMDR.

Matthew works clinically with a diverse array of clients including individuals, couples, and families. He specializes in medical family therapy and chronic pain management, reflecting his keen interest in the mind-body connection. He has experience treating medical first responders, hospice and oncology doctors, doctors who suffered brain damage while on duty, workers who sustained lung damage due to industrial accidents, and clients suffering heart damage due to viruses following Hurricane Katrina.

In addition to his clinical work, Matthew has pursued this interest through collaborative work with neuroscientists, therapists, and physicians, and has lectured widely on topics including trauma-informed therapy, medical family therapy, chronic pain management, and brain-based psychotherapy. He co-developed a website with UPenn’s Wharton School of Business and Yale University that educates first responders about acute stress disorder, caregiver fatigue, and strategies for mutual support in the field. He has also consulted with the DNC to develop a platform for providing accessible mental health care during disasters.

Matthew’s work reflects a commitment to integrating these disparate fields into a model of treatment with the mind-body connection at its core.


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Workshop Details
Thursday, May 28th
1:00pm – 4:00pm

Location: Zoom videoconferencing

3 CE Credits Available for Psychologists, PA/NJ/DE LPCs and LMFTs, and PA/DE Social Workers.


Council for Relationships is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Council for Relationships maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

The following entities accept continuing education credits provided by APA-approved sponsors: the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors; the New Jersey State Board of Marriage and Family Examiners; the Delaware State Board of Professional Counselors of Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Professionals; the Delaware State Board of Social Work Examiners.

Council for Relationships staff and current students: visit your password-protected page for information regarding staff and student rates. Please contact Tiffani Smoot, Academic Administrator for alumni rate and questions.

Refund Policy

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