European Review

Focus: Complexity

Complexity and Nonlinear Dynamics in Psychotherapy

Günter Schiepeka1

a1 Institute of Synergetics and Psychotherapy Research, Paracelsus Medical University, Christian Doppler Universitätsklinikum, Ignaz Harrer Str. 79, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria. E-mail:


Human life changes with time. It seems therefore obvious that most of the phenomena that psychology and psychotherapy are concerned with are dynamic in nature. For human development processes, human change and learning processes, the dynamics and prognosis of mental disorders, problems manifesting in social systems such as couples, families, teams, or the question of how psychotherapy works, self-organization is ubiquitous. In the context of self-organization, complexity is a quality of changing patterns and patterns of change, produced by nonlinear coupled systems.