Talking Point: Neuroplastic Wrap: The non-pathologising, ecological alternative to diagnostic labels, presented by Dr Haley Peckham on 13th September 2023


Most people accessing mental health services have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and/or histories of complex trauma. In recognition of this, there are calls to move away from medical model approaches and move toward trauma-informed approaches which privilege the impact of life experience over underlying pathology in the etiology of emotional and psychological suffering. Trauma-informed approaches lack a biological narrative linking trauma and adversity to later suffering. In its absence, this suffering is diagnosed and treated as a mental illness. This study articulates the Neuroplastic Narrative, a neuroecological theory that fills this gap, conceptualizing emotional and psychological suffering as the cost of surviving and adapting to the impinging environments of trauma and adversity. The Neuroplastic Narrative privileges lived experience and recognizes that our experiences become embedded in our biology through evolved mechanisms that ultimately act to preserve survival in the service of reproduction. 

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About the presenter

Dr Haley Peckham’s background includes philosophy, mental health nursing, psychotherapy and neuroscience and her perspective is grounded in a colourful lived experience of recovering from complex trauma. While studying Philosophy Haley worked with children and adolescents in ‘care’ and, realising that as adults they were over-represented in the criminal justice system and mental health services set out to understand the relationship between early experiences and brains, minds and behaviours.

Whilst working as a Mental Health Nurse Haley studied Molecular Neuroscience at Bristol and gained her PhD from The University of Melbourne where she learned the neuroscience of how experiences shape brains and the evolutionary biology that illuminates why experiences may shape us the way they do. These insights are critically important for clinical practice especially for the delivery of coherent ACE aware and Trauma-Informed approaches, and Haley seeks to share them with interested professionals in Australia and the UK.