Peplau and the brain: Why Interpersonal Neuroscience provides a useful language for the relationship process

Kathleen R Delaney, Julie Ferguson


Since introduced by Peplau in the 1950’s the psychotherapeutic relationship has been a defining element of psychiatric mental health (PMH) nursing practice. While the components of the therapeutic relationship have been detailed over the decades, PMH nurses appear to be faltering in particular aspects of the relationship process. Individuals hospitalized on inpatient psychiatric units have reported that nurses often failed to engage. Nursing leaders believe that the specialty has not articulated what PMH nurses do within the relationship that helps clients lead a more meaningful life. We suggest what remains ambiguous is not what nurses do within the relationship but the language to depict the mental processes involved in relationship building particularly in the engagement phase. Using the language of interpersonal neuroscience three key engagement processes are detailed, i.e., resonance, attunement and mentalizing. The healing elements of the relationship are explored particularly how attention to individuals’ narratives of experiences supports their movement towards integration and coherence.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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