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Clinical Intuition in Psychotherapy

The Neurobiology of Embodied Response

April 2012


A systematic look at the role of “gut feelings” in psychotherapy.

What actually happens in psychotherapy, outside the confines of therapeutic models and techniques? How can clinicians learn to pick up on interpersonal nuance, using their intuition to bridge the gap between theory and practice? Drawing from 30 years of clinical experience, Marks-Tarlow explores the central— yet neglected—topic of intuition in psychotherapy, sharing clinical insights and intuitions that can help transform traumatized brains into healthy minds.

Bridging art and science, Clinical Intuition in Psychotherapy is grounded in interpersonal neurobiology, and filled with rich case vignettes, personal stories, and original artwork. In the early chapters of the book, Marks-Tarlow defines clinical intuition as a right-brain, fully embodied mode of perceiving, relating, and responding to the ongoing flows and changing dynamics of psychotherapy. She examines how the body “has a mind of its own” in the form of implicit processes, uncovering the implicit roots of clinical intuition within human empathy and emphasizing the importance of play to clinical intuition.

Encouraging therapists to bring their own unique senses of humor to clinical practice, she explains how the creative neural powers of playfulness, embedded within sensitive clinical dialogs, can move clients’ lives toward lasting positive affective growth.

Later chapters explore the play of imagination within clinical intuition, where imagery and metaphor can lead to deeper insight about underlying emotions and relational truths than words alone; the developmental foundations for intuition; and clinical intuition as a vehicle for developing and expressing wisdom. At the close of each chapter, reflective exercises help the reader personally integrate the concepts.

Part of the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, this wonderful guidebook will help clinicians harness the power of spontaneous intuitive thinking to transform their therapeutic practices.


"In a field with too few bridges between the research lab and the clinician’s office, Marks-Tarlow provides another valuable span from one side of this slowly closing chasm to the other. . . . [N]ovice therapists as well as those with years of experience will easily grasp the ideas she describes and then integrate these ideas into their conceptualizations and practice." — PsycCritiques

"I would recommend this book to any seasoned or emerging clinicians and also to students who are just beginning or are continuing their studies the field. . . . [R]eading this book provided me with the biological background and clinical examples needed for me to feel more secure to go beyond (but not abandon) the theories and to trust my natural capabilities." — CTAMFT.org

"This book is a superb synopsis of psychotherapeutic experiences, and a delight to read. With a flowing and sensitive narrative, spiced with selections from modern affective and cognitive neurosciences, Marks-Tarlow’s clinical skills and insights offer new ways to envision how disturbed minds can be guided toward positive self-realizations, through the transformative power of social joy. She shows, by example, how to harness personal habits of bodily self-care and psychological well-being to maximize affective intuitions that help restore traumatized brains to healthy minds." — Jaak Panksepp, Baily Endowed Professor of Animal Well-Being Science, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University

"Marks-Tarlow takes us on a shimmering journey through the heart of clinical practice. Giving equal voice to the both cortical hemispheres, conscious and unconscious processes, and the body, brain, and mind, she challenges us to expand our understanding and awareness of our clients and ourselves." — Louis Cozolino, PhD, professor of psychology, Pepperdine University, and author of The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy and The Neuroscience of Human Relationships

"This timely book achieves far more than the title suggests. It will engage a first-year psychotherapy student, it will validate the implicit knowledge of a seasoned clinician, and it will empower an interested lay psychotherapy consumer. This is truly a one-of-a-kind achievement for our field." — David Pincus, PhD, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, Chapman University, and author of Imagery for Pain Relief: A Scientifically Grounded Guidebook for Clinicians

"A thoughtful, practical, and moving account of the importance of intuition and empathy in psychotherapy. This book contains many enlightening, and touching, real-life examples of how often the delicate process depends on the wise therapist having the courage to be vulnerable, and to know how ‘not to know." — Dr. Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and his Emissary

"This extraordinary book will prove invaluable for therapists of all persuasions. Marks-Tarlow successfully offers the reader an accessible exposition of a complex topic while preserving its mystery, emphasizing the bottom-up, right-brain nature of clinical intuition and elucidating how the therapist’s embodied experience is the basis for choices made in therapy." — Pat Ogden, PhD, Founder/Director, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, and author of Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy

Also By: Terry Marks-Tarlow View all by author...

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    Play and Creativity in Psychotherapy

    Terry Marks-Tarlow, Daniel J. Siegel, Marion F. Solomon

    Hardback, 2017

    Distinguished clinicians demonstrate how play and creativity have everything to do with the deepest healing, growth and personal transformation.
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    Play and Creativity in Psychotherapy

    Terry Marks-Tarlow, Daniel J. Siegel, Marion F. Solomon

    E Book, 2017

    Distinguished clinicians demonstrate how play and creativity have everything to do with the deepest healing, growth and personal transformation.
  • 9780393708684 72

    Awakening Clinical Intuition: An Experiential Workbook for Psychotherapists

    Terry Marks-Tarlow

    Paperback, 2014

    Exercises to help mental health practitioners at all levels of experience recognize gut feelings and produce deep therapeutic change.



163 x 244 mm • 288 pages


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