Dr Haley Peckham on neuro-plasticity, trauma & experience
Neuroscientist Dr Haley Peckham describes the focus of her research as “the biological mechanisms that translate our lived experience in the world into changes in the brain" and how these mechanisms “can be harnessed to influence people’s recovery from the impacts of trauma”.
She joined the CPN in mid-2017, and has since provided a dual researcher/consumer perspective on neuro-plasticity and neuro-psychotherapy to several CPN initiatives. This includes a new CPN workshop and the Psychotherapy Essentials ten-day course for community MH nurses, where Dr Peckham's research informs a re-framing of mental illness “as human beings adapting in the best way that our biology can to the experiences that we’re faced with”.
Dr Peckham delivered the closing keynote address at the 2017 Victorian Collaborative Mental Health Nursing Conference, in which she spoke in detail about how neuro-plasticity can help us understand the ways in which our early relational experiences – both positive or negative - shape our brains and our behaviours.
The paper also drew from Dr Peckham’s personal experience of surviving a history of complex trauma, and how psychotherapy enabled her "to have radically different and positive experiences”, and so fundamentally change her ability to physiologically and emotionally regulate. It’s an experience she says both “informs how I practice my nursing, and informs how I do my research”.