How Getting in Sync Is Curative: Insights Gained From Research in Psychotherapy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We are all constantly going in and out of sync with the people wemeet in our lives: significant others, incidental encounters, and strangers. Synchrony is a ubiquitous phenomenon, considered an evolution-based mechanism of survival. In recent years, technological development has made it possible to collect much data on synchrony across disciplines. The collected data show great potential to shed light on the benefits of this universal phenomenon. At the same time, mixed results emerged, stressing the need for a theory to navigate research inquiries and discoveries. It is proposed here that synchrony serves as an individual-specific mechanism for making relationships curative in all life circumstances, especially therapeutic ones—hence its special relevance for psychotherapy. A synthesis of the majority of the literature across disciplines reveals two implicit assumptions about synchrony, resulting in two separate bodies of knowledge: (a) synchrony is a trait-like signature characterizing individuals; and (b) synchrony is a state-like phenomenon that can be manipulated in the lab. It is proposed here to personalize synchrony research by integrating the two assumptions into a comprehensive theory according to which individuals have a trait-like signature for getting in sync, which determines their physical and mental health, and that this deterministic reality can be subject to state-like manipulation. Individuals can deviate from their trait-like signature. When the deviation is toward normative activation, mental health improves, and the state-like changes are defined as therapeutic. This article calls for research to investigate how trait-like signature of synchrony develops and how it can be therapeutically changed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Review
Early online date15 Feb 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - 15 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 American Psychological Association


  • multimodal
  • state-like
  • synchrony
  • therapeutic relationship
  • trait-like

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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