By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Distinguish between psychotherapy and biomedical therapy
- Recognize various orientations to psychotherapy
- Discuss psychotropic medications and recognize which medications are used to treat specific psychological disorders
- Distinguish between the various modalities of treatment
- Discuss benefits of group therapy
Types of Treatment
One of the goals of therapy is to help a person stop repeating and reenacting destructive patterns and to start looking for better solutions to difficult situations. This goal is reflected in the following poem:
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson (1993)
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost. . . . I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in . . . it’s a habit . . . but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
Two types of therapy are psychotherapy and biomedical therapy. Both types of treatment help people with psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Psychotherapy is a psychological treatment that employs various methods to help someone overcome personal problems, or to attain personal growth. In modern practice, it has evolved ino what is known as psychodynamic therapy, which will be discussed later. Biomedical therapy involves medication and/or medical procedures to treat psychological disorders. First, we will explore the various psychotherapeutic orientations outlined in Table(many of these orientations were discussed in the Introduction chapter).
|Psychodynamic psychotherapy||Talk therapy based on belief that the unconscious and childhood conflicts impact behavior||Patient talks about his past|
|Play therapy||Psychoanalytical therapy wherein interaction with toys is used instead of talk; used in child therapy||Patient (child) acts out family scenes with dolls|
|Behavior therapy||Principles of learning applied to change undesirable behaviors||Patient learns to overcome fear of elevators through several stages of relaxation techniques|
|Cognitive therapy||Awareness of cognitive process helps patients eliminate thought patterns that lead to distress||Patient learns not to overgeneralize failure based on single failure|
|Cognitive-behavior therapy||Work to change cognitive distortions and self-defeating behaviors||Patient learns to identify self-defeating behaviors to overcome an eating disorder|
|Humanistic therapy||Increase self-awareness and acceptance through focus on conscious thoughts||Patient learns to articulate thoughts that keep her from achieving her goals|
PSYCHOTHERAPY TECHNIQUES: PSYCHOANALYSIS
Psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud and was the first form of psychotherapy. It was the dominant therapeutic technique in the early 20th century, but it has since waned significantly in popularity. Freud believed most of our psychological problems are the result of repressed impulses and trauma experienced in childhood, and he believed psychoanalysis would help uncover long-buried feelings. In a psychoanalyst’s office, you might see a patient lying on a couch speaking of dreams or childhood memories, and the therapist using various Freudian methods such as free association and dream analysis (Figure). In free association, the patient relaxes and then says whatever comes to mind at the moment. However, Freud felt that the ego would at times try to block, or repress, unacceptable urges or painful conflicts during free association. Consequently, a patient would demonstrate resistance to recalling these thoughts or situations. In dream analysis, a therapist interprets the underlying meaning of dreams.
Psychoanalysis is a therapy approach that typically takes years. Over the course of time, the patient reveals a great deal about himself to the therapist. Freud suggested that during this patient-therapist relationship, the patient comes to develop strong feelings for the therapist—maybe positive feelings, maybe negative feelings. Freud called this transference: the patient transfers all the positive or negative emotions associated with the patient’s other relationships to the psychoanalyst. For example, Crystal is seeing a psychoanalyst. During the years of therapy, she comes to see her therapist as a father figure. She transfers her feelings about her father onto her therapist, perhaps in an effort to gain the love and attention she did not receive from her own father.
Today, Freud’s psychoanalytical perspective has been expanded upon by the developments of subsequent theories and methodologies: the psychodynamic perspective. This approach to therapy remains centered on the role of people’s internal drives and forces, but treatment is less intensive than Freud’s original model.
PSYCHOTHERAPY: PLAY THERAPY
Play therapy is often used with children since they are not likely to sit on a couch and recall their dreams or engage in traditional talk therapy. This technique uses a therapeutic process of play to “help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth” (O’Connor, 2000, p. 7). The idea is that children play out their hopes, fantasies, and traumas while using dolls, stuffed animals, and sandbox figurines (Figure). Play therapy can also be used to help a therapist make a diagnosis. The therapist observes how the child interacts with toys (e.g., dolls, animals, and home settings) in an effort to understand the roots of the child’s disturbed behavior. Play therapy can be nondirective or directive. In nondirective play therapy, children are encouraged to work through their problems by playing freely while the therapist observes (LeBlanc & Ritchie, 2001). In directive play therapy, the therapist provides more structure and guidance in the play session by suggesting topics, asking questions, and even playing with the child (Harter, 1977).
PSYCHOTHERAPY: BEHAVIOR THERAPY
In psychoanalysis, therapists help their patients look into their past to uncover repressed feelings. In behavior therapy, a therapist employs principles of learning to help clients change undesirable behaviors—rather than digging deeply into one’s unconscious. Therapists with this orientation believe that dysfunctional behaviors, like phobias and bedwetting, can be changed by teaching clients new, more constructive behaviors. Behavior therapy employs both classical and operant conditioning techniques to change behavior.
One type of behavior therapy utilizes classical conditioning techniques. Therapists using these techniques believe that dysfunctional behaviors are conditioned responses. Applying the conditioning principles developed by Ivan Pavlov, these therapists seek to recondition their clients and thus change their behavior. Emmie is eight years old, and frequently wets her bed at night. She’s been invited to several sleepovers, but she won’t go because of her problem. Using a type of conditioning therapy, Emmie begins to sleep on a liquid-sensitive bed pad that is hooked to an alarm. When moisture touches the pad, it sets off the alarm, waking up Emmie. When this process is repeated enough times, Emmie develops an association between urinary relaxation and waking up, and this stops the bedwetting. Emmie has now gone three weeks without wetting her bed and is looking forward to her first sleepover this weekend.
One commonly used classical conditioning therapeutic technique is counterconditioning: a client learns a new response to a stimulus that has previously elicited an undesirable behavior. Two counterconditioning techniques are aversive conditioning and exposure therapy. Aversive conditioning uses an unpleasant stimulus to stop an undesirable behavior. Therapists apply this technique to eliminate addictive behaviors, such as smoking, nail biting, and drinking. In aversion therapy, clients will typically engage in a specific behavior (such as nail biting) and at the same time are exposed to something unpleasant, such as a mild electric shock or a bad taste. After repeated associations between the unpleasant stimulus and the behavior, the client can learn to stop the unwanted behavior.
Aversion therapy has been used effectively for years in the treatment of alcoholism (Davidson, 1974; Elkins, 1991; Streeton & Whelan, 2001). One common way this occurs is through a chemically based substance known as Antabuse. When a person takes Antabuse and then consumes alcohol, uncomfortable side effects result including nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, severe headache, and shortness of breath. Antabuse is repeatedly paired with alcohol until the client associates alcohol with unpleasant feelings, which decreases the client’s desire to consume alcohol. Antabuse creates a conditioned aversion to alcohol because it replaces the original pleasure response with an unpleasant one.
In exposure therapy, a therapist seeks to treat clients’ fears or anxiety by presenting them with the object or situation that causes their problem, with the idea that they will eventually get used to it. This can be done via reality, imagination, or virtual reality. Exposure therapy was first reported in 1924 by Mary Cover Jones, who is considered the mother of behavior therapy. Jones worked with a boy named Peter who was afraid of rabbits. Her goal was to replace Peter’s fear of rabbits with a conditioned response of relaxation, which is a response that is incompatible with fear (Figure). How did she do it? Jones began by placing a caged rabbit on the other side of a room with Peter while he ate his afternoon snack. Over the course of several days, Jones moved the rabbit closer and closer to where Peter was seated with his snack. After two months of being exposed to the rabbit while relaxing with his snack, Peter was able to hold the rabbit and pet it while eating (Jones, 1924).
Thirty years later, Joseph Wolpe (1958) refined Jones’s techniques, giving us the behavior therapy technique of exposure therapy that is used today. A popular form of exposure therapy is systematic desensitization, wherein a calm and pleasant state is gradually associated with increasing levels of anxiety-inducing stimuli. The idea is that you can’t be nervous and relaxed at the same time. Therefore, if you can learn to relax when you are facing environmental stimuli that make you nervous or fearful, you can eventually eliminate your unwanted fear response (Wolpe, 1958) (Figure).
How does exposure therapy work? Jayden is terrified of elevators. Nothing bad has ever happened to him on an elevator, but he’s so afraid of elevators that he will always take the stairs. That wasn’t a problem when Jayden worked on the second floor of an office building, but now he has a new job—on the 29th floor of a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles. Jayden knows he can’t climb 29 flights of stairs in order to get to work each day, so he decided to see a behavior therapist for help. The therapist asks Jayden to first construct a hierarchy of elevator-related situations that elicit fear and anxiety. They range from situations of mild anxiety such as being nervous around the other people in the elevator, to the fear of getting an arm caught in the door, to panic-provoking situations such as getting trapped or the cable snapping. Next, the therapist uses progressive relaxation. She teaches Jayden how to relax each of his muscle groups so that he achieves a drowsy, relaxed, and comfortable state of mind. Once he’s in this state, she asks Jayden to imagine a mildly anxiety-provoking situation. Jayden is standing in front of the elevator thinking about pressing the call button.
If this scenario causes Jayden anxiety, he lifts his finger. The therapist would then tell Jayden to forget the scene and return to his relaxed state. She repeats this scenario over and over until Jayden can imagine himself pressing the call button without anxiety. Over time the therapist and Jayden use progressive relaxation and imagination to proceed through all of the situations on Jayden’s hierarchy until he becomes desensitized to each one. After this, Jayden and the therapist begin to practice what he only previously envisioned in therapy, gradually going from pressing the button to actually riding an elevator. The goal is that Jayden will soon be able to take the elevator all the way up to the 29th floor of his office without feeling any anxiety.
Sometimes, it’s too impractical, expensive, or embarrassing to re-create anxiety- producing situations, so a therapist might employ virtual reality exposure therapy by using a simulation to help conquer fears. Virtual reality exposure therapy has been used effectively to treat numerous anxiety disorders such as the fear of public speaking, claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), aviophobia (fear of flying), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a trauma and stressor-related disorder (Gerardi, Cukor, Difede, Rizzo, & Rothbaum, 2010).
Some behavior therapies employ operant conditioning. Recall what you learned about operant conditioning: We have a tendency to repeat behaviors that are reinforced. What happens to behaviors that are not reinforced? They become extinguished. These principles can be applied to help people with a wide range of psychological problems. For instance, operant conditioning techniques designed to reinforce positive behaviors and punish unwanted behaviors have been an effective tool to help children with autism (Lovaas, 1987, 2003; Sallows & Graupner, 2005; Wolf & Risley, 1967). This technique is called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). In this treatment, child-specific reinforcers (e.g., stickers, praise, candy, bubbles, and extra play time) are used to reward and motivate autistic children when they demonstrate desired behaviors such as sitting on a chair when requested, verbalizing a greeting, or making eye contact. Punishment such as a timeout or a sharp “No!” from the therapist or parent might be used to discourage undesirable behaviors such as pinching, scratching, and pulling hair.
One popular operant conditioning intervention is called the token economy. This involves a controlled setting where individuals are reinforced for desirable behaviors with tokens, such as a poker chip, that can be exchanged for items or privileges. Token economies are often used in psychiatric hospitals to increase patient cooperation and activity levels. Patients are rewarded with tokens when they engage in positive behaviors (e.g., making their beds, brushing their teeth, coming to the cafeteria on time, and socializing with other patients). They can later exchange the tokens for extra TV time, private rooms, visits to the canteen, and so on (Dickerson, Tenhula, & Green-Paden, 2005).
PSYCHOTHERAPY: COGNITIVE THERAPY
Cognitive therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on how a person’s thoughts lead to feelings of distress. The idea behind cognitive therapy is that how you think determines how you feel and act. Cognitive therapists help their clients change dysfunctional thoughts in order to relieve distress. They help a client see how they misinterpret a situation (cognitive distortion). For example, a client may overgeneralize. Because Ray failed one test in his Psychology 101 course, he feels he is stupid and worthless. These thoughts then cause his mood to worsen. Therapists also help clients recognize when they blow things out of proportion. Because Ray failed his Psychology 101 test, he has concluded that he’s going to fail the entire course and probably flunk out of college altogether. These errors in thinking have contributed to Ray’s feelings of distress. His therapist will help him challenge these irrational beliefs, focus on their illogical basis, and correct them with more logical and rational thoughts and beliefs.
Cognitive therapy was developed by psychiatrist Aaron Beck in the 1960s. His initial focus was on depression and how a client’s self-defeating attitude served to maintain a depression despite positive factors in her life (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979) (Figure). Through questioning, a cognitive therapist can help a client recognize dysfunctional ideas, challenge catastrophizing thoughts about themselves and their situations, and find a more positive way to view things (Beck, 2011).
PSYCHOTHERAPY: COGNITIVE-BEHAVIOR THERAPY
Cognitive-behavioral therapists focus much more on present issues than on a patient’s childhood or past, as in other forms of psychotherapy. One of the first forms of cognitive-behavior therapy was rational emotive therapy (RET), which was founded by Albert Ellis and grew out of his dislike of Freudian psychoanalysis (Daniel, n.d.). Behaviorists such as Joseph Wolpe also influenced Ellis’s therapeutic approach (National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, 2009).
Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) helps clients examine how their thoughts affect their behavior. It aims to change cognitive distortions and self-defeating behaviors. In essence, this approach is designed to change the way people think as well as how they act. It is similar to cognitive therapy in that CBT attempts to make individuals aware of their irrational and negative thoughts and helps people replace them with new, more positive ways of thinking. It is also similar to behavior therapies in that CBT teaches people how to practice and engage in more positive and healthy approaches to daily situations. In total, hundreds of studies have shown the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of numerous psychological disorders such as depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, n.d.). For example, CBT has been found to be effective in decreasing levels of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts in previously suicidal teenagers (Alavi, Sharifi, Ghanizadeh, & Dehbozorgi, 2013). Cognitive-behavioral therapy has also been effective in reducing PTSD in specific populations, such as transit workers (Lowinger & Rombom, 2012).
Cognitive behavior therapy aims to change cognitive distortions and self-defeating behaviors using techniques like the ABC model. With this model, there is an Action (sometimes called an activating event), the Belief about the event, and the Consequences of this belief. Let’s say, Jon and Joe both go to a party. Jon and Joe each have met a young woman at the party: Jon is talking with Megan most of the party, and Joe is talking with Amanda. At the end of the party, Jon asks Megan for her phone number and Joe asks Amanda. Megan tells Jon she would rather not give him her number, and Amanda tells Joe the same thing. Both Jon and Joe are surprised, as they thought things were going well. What can Jon and Joe tell themselves about why the women were not interested? Let’s say Jon tells himself he is a loser, or is ugly, or “has no game.” Jon then gets depressed and decides not to go to another party, which starts a cycle that keeps him depressed. Joe tells himself that he had bad breath, goes out and buys a new toothbrush, goes to another party, and meets someone new.
Jon’s belief about what happened results in a consequence of further depression, whereas Joe’s belief does not. Jon is internalizing the attribution or reason for the rebuffs, which triggers his depression. On the other hand, Joe is externalizing the cause, so his thinking does not contribute to feelings of depression. Cognitive-behavior therapy examines specific maladaptive and automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions. Some examples of cognitive distortions are all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, and jumping to conclusions. In overgeneralization, someone takes a small situation and makes it huge—for example, instead of saying, “This particular woman was not interested in me,” the man says, “I am ugly, a loser, and no one is ever going to be interested in me.”
All or nothing thinking, which is a common type of cognitive distortion for people suffering from depression, reflects extremes. In other words, everything is black or white. After being turned down for a date, Jon begins to think, “No woman will ever go out with me. I’m going to be alone forever.” He begins to feel anxious and sad as he contemplates his future.
The third kind of distortion involves jumping to conclusions—assuming that people are thinking negatively about you or reacting negatively to you, even though there is no evidence. Consider the example of Savannah and Hillaire, who recently met at a party. They have a lot in common, and Savannah thinks they could become friends. She calls Hillaire to invite her for coffee. Since Hillaire doesn’t answer, Savannah leaves her a message. Several days go by and Savannah never hears back from her potential new friend. Maybe Hillaire never received the message because she lost her phone or she is too busy to return the phone call. But if Savannah believes that Hillaire didn’t like Savannah or didn’t want to be her friend, she is demonstrating the cognitive distortion of jumping to conclusions.
How effective is CBT? One client said this about his cognitive-behavioral therapy:
I have had many painful episodes of depression in my life, and this has had a negative effect on my career and has put considerable strain on my friends and family. The treatments I have received, such as taking antidepressants and psychodynamic counseling, have helped [me] to cope with the symptoms and to get some insights into the roots of my problems. CBT has been by far the most useful approach I have found in tackling these mood problems. It has raised my awareness of how my thoughts impact on my moods. How the way I think about myself, about others and about the world can lead me into depression. It is a practical approach, which does not dwell so much on childhood experiences, whilst acknowledging that it was then that these patterns were learned. It looks at what is happening now, and gives tools to manage these moods on a daily basis. (Martin, 2007, n.p.)
PSYCHOTHERAPY: HUMANISTIC THERAPY
Humanistic psychology focuses on helping people achieve their potential. So it makes sense that the goal of humanistic therapyis to help people become more self-aware and accepting of themselves. In contrast to psychoanalysis, humanistic therapists focus on conscious rather than unconscious thoughts. They also emphasize the patient’s present and future, as opposed to exploring the patient’s past.
Psychologist Carl Rogers developed a therapeutic orientation known as Rogerian, or client-centered therapy. Note the change from patients to clients. Rogers (1951) felt that the term patient suggested the person seeking help was sick and looking for a cure. Since this is a form of nondirective therapy, a therapeutic approach in which the therapist does not give advice or provide interpretations but helps the person to identify conflicts and understand feelings, Rogers (1951) emphasized the importance of the person taking control of his own life to overcome life’s challenges.
In client-centered therapy, the therapist uses the technique of active listening. In active listening, the therapist acknowledges, restates, and clarifies what the client expresses. Therapists also practice what Rogers called unconditional positive regard, which involves not judging clients and simply accepting them for who they are. Rogers (1951) also felt that therapists should demonstrate genuineness, empathy, and acceptance toward their clients because this helps people become more accepting of themselves, which results in personal growth.
EVALUATING VARIOUS FORMS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
How can we assess the effectiveness of psychotherapy? Is one technique more effective than another? For anyone considering therapy, these are important questions. According to the American Psychological Association, three factors work together to produce successful treatment. The first is the use of evidence-based treatment that is deemed appropriate for your particular issue. The second important factor is the clinical expertise of the psychologist or therapist. The third factor is your own characteristics, values, preferences, and culture. Many people begin psychotherapy feeling like their problem will never be resolved; however, psychotherapy helps people see that they can do things to make their situation better. Psychotherapy can help reduce a person’s anxiety, depression, and maladaptive behaviors. Through psychotherapy, individuals can learn to engage in healthy behaviors designed to help them better express emotions, improve relationships, think more positively, and perform more effectively at work or school.
Many studies have explored the effectiveness of psychotherapy. For example, one large-scale study that examined 16 meta-analyses of CBT reported that it was equally effective or more effective than other therapies in treating PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and social phobia (Butlera, Chapmanb, Formanc, & Becka, 2006). Another study found that CBT was as effective at treating depression (43% success rate) as prescription medication (50% success rate) compared to the placebo rate of 25% (DeRubeis et al., 2005). Another meta-analysis found that psychodynamic therapy was also as effective at treating these types of psychological issues as CBT (Shedler, 2010). However, no studies have found one psychotherapeutic approach more effective than another (Abbass, Kisely, & Kroenke, 2006; Chorpita et al., 2011), nor have they shown any relationship between a client’s treatment outcome and the level of the clinician’s training or experience (Wampold, 2007). Regardless of which type of psychotherapy an individual chooses, one critical factor that determines the success of treatment is the person’s relationship with the psychologist or therapist.
Individuals can be prescribed biologically based treatments or psychotropic medications that are used to treat mental disorders. While these are often used in combination with psychotherapy, they also are taken by individuals not in therapy. This is known as biomedical therapy. Medications used to treat psychological disorders are called psychotropic medications and are prescribed by medical doctors, including psychiatrists. In Louisiana and New Mexico, psychologists are able to prescribe some types of these medications (American Psychological Association, 2014).
Different types and classes of medications are prescribed for different disorders. A depressed person might be given an antidepressant, a bipolar individual might be given a mood stabilizer, and a schizophrenic individual might be given an antipsychotic. These medications treat the symptoms of a psychological disorder. They can help people feel better so that they can function on a daily basis, but they do not cure the disorder. Some people may only need to take a psychotropic medication for a short period of time. Others with severe disorders like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia may need to take psychotropic medication for a long time. Table shows the types of medication and how they are used.
|Type of Medication||Used to Treat||Brand Names of Commonly Prescribed Medications||How They Work||Side Effects|
|Antipsychotics (developed in the 1950s)||Schizophrenia and other types of severe thought disorders||Haldol, Mellaril, Prolixin, Thorazine||Treat positive psychotic symptoms such as auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia by blocking the neurotransmitter dopamine||Long-term use can lead to tardive dyskinesia, involuntary movements of the arms, legs, tongue and facial muscles, resulting in Parkinson’s-like tremors|
|Atypical Antipsychotics (developed in the late 1980s)||Schizophrenia and other types of severe thought disorders||Abilify, Risperdal, Clozaril||Treat the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as withdrawal and apathy, by targeting both dopamine and serotonin receptors; newer medications may treat both positive and negative symptoms||Can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes as well as elevate cholesterol levels; constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, drowsiness, and dizziness|
|Anti-depressants||Depression and increasingly for anxiety||Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, [SSRIs]); Tofranil and Elavil (tricyclics)||Alter levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine||SSRIs: headache, nausea, weight gain, drowsiness, reduced sex drive
Tricyclics: dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, drowsiness, reduced sex drive, increased risk of suicide
|Anti-anxiety agents||Anxiety and agitation that occur in OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, and social phobia||Xanax, Valium, Ativan||Depress central nervous system activity||Drowsiness, dizziness, headache, fatigue, lightheadedness|
|Mood Stabilizers||Bipolar disorder||Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal, Tegretol||Treat episodes of mania as well as depression||Excessive thirst, irregular heartbeat, itching/rash, swelling (face, mouth, and extremities), nausea, loss of appetite|
|Stimulants||ADHD||Adderall, Ritalin||Improve ability to focus on a task and maintain attention||Decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, stomachache, headache|
Another biologically based treatment that continues to be used, although infrequently, is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)(formerly known by its unscientific name as electroshock therapy). It involves using an electrical current to induce seizures to help alleviate the effects of severe depression. The exact mechanism is unknown, although it does help alleviate symptoms for people with severe depression who have not responded to traditional drug therapy (Pagnin, de Queiroz, Pini, & Cassano, 2004). About 85% of people treated with ECT improve (Reti, n.d.). However, the memory loss associated with repeated administrations has led to it being implemented as a last resort (Donahue, 2000; Prudic, Peyser, & Sackeim, 2000). A more recent alternative is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a procedure approved by the FDA in 2008 that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve depression symptoms; it is used when other treatments have not worked (Mayo Clinic, 2012).
A buzzword in therapy today is evidence-based practice. However, it’s not a novel concept but one that has been used in medicine for at least two decades. Evidence-based practice is used to reduce errors in treatment selection by making clinical decisions based on research (Sackett & Rosenberg, 1995). In any case, evidence-based treatment is on the rise in the field of psychology. So what is it, and why does it matter? In an effort to determine which treatment methodologies are evidenced-based, professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) have recommended that specific psychological treatments be used to treat certain psychological disorders (Chambless & Ollendick, 2001). According to the APA (2005), “Evidence-based practice in psychology (EBPP) is the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preferences” (p. 1).
The foundational idea behind evidence based treatment is that best practices are determined by research evidence that has been compiled by comparing various forms of treatment (Charman & Barkham, 2005). These treatments are then operationalized and placed in treatment manuals—trained therapists follow these manuals. The benefits are that evidence-based treatment can reduce variability between therapists to ensure that a specific approach is delivered with integrity (Charman & Barkham, 2005). Therefore, clients have a higher chance of receiving therapeutic interventions that are effective at treating their specific disorder. While EBPP is based on randomized control trials, critics of EBPP reject it stating that the results of trials cannot be applied to individuals and instead determinations regarding treatment should be based on a therapist’s judgment (Mullen & Streiner, 2004).
Psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud. Freud’s theory is that a person’s psychological problems are the result of repressed impulses or childhood trauma. The goal of the therapist is to help a person uncover buried feelings by using techniques such as free association and dream analysis.
Play therapy is a psychodynamic therapy technique often used with children. The idea is that children play out their hopes, fantasies, and traumas, using dolls, stuffed animals, and sandbox figurines.
In behavior therapy, a therapist employs principles of learning from classical and operant conditioning to help clients change undesirable behaviors. Counterconditioning is a commonly used therapeutic technique in which a client learns a new response to a stimulus that has previously elicited an undesirable behavior via classical conditioning. Principles of operant conditioning can be applied to help people deal with a wide range of psychological problems. Token economy is an example of a popular operant conditioning technique.
Cognitive therapy is a technique that focuses on how thoughts lead to feelings of distress. The idea behind cognitive therapy is that how you think determines how you feel and act. Cognitive therapists help clients change dysfunctional thoughts in order to relieve distress. Cognitive behavior therapy explores how our thoughts affect our behavior. Cognitive behavior therapy aims to change cognitive distortions and self-defeating behaviors.
Humanistic therapy focuses on helping people achieve their potential. One form of humanistic therapy developed by Carl Rogers is known as client-centered or Rogerian therapy. Client-centered therapists use the techniques of active listening, unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and empathy to help clients become more accepting of themselves.
Often in combination with psychotherapy, people can be prescribed biologically based treatments such as psychotropic medications and/or other medical procedures such as electro-convulsive therapy.
The idea behind ________ is that how you think determines how you feel and act.
- cognitive therapy
- cognitive behavior therapy
- behavior therapy
- client-centered therapy
Mood stabilizers, such as lithium, are used to treat ________.
- anxiety disorders
- bipolar disorder
Clay is in a therapy session. The therapist asks him to relax and say whatever comes to his mind at the moment. This therapist is using ________, which is a technique of ________.
- active listening; client-centered therapy
- systematic desensitization; behavior therapy
- transference; psychoanalysis
- free association; psychoanalysis
Critical Thinking Question
Imagine that you are a psychiatrist. Your patient, Pat, comes to you with the following symptoms: anxiety and feelings of sadness. Which therapeutic approach would you recommend and why?
Personal Application Question
If you were to choose a therapist practicing one of the techniques presented in this section, which kind of therapist would you choose and why?
Once a person seeks treatment, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he has an intake done to assess his clinical needs. An intake is the therapist’s first meeting with the client. The therapist gathers specific information to address the client’s immediate needs, such as the presenting problem, the client’s support system, and insurance status. The therapist informs the client about confidentiality, fees, and what to expect in treatment. Confidentiality means the therapist cannot disclose confidential communications to any third party unless mandated or permitted by law to do so. During the intake, the therapist and client will work together to discuss treatment goals. Then a treatment plan will be formulated, usually with specific measurable objectives. Also, the therapist and client will discuss how treatment success will be measured and the estimated length of treatment. There are several different modalities of treatment (Figure): Individual therapy, family therapy, couples therapy, and group therapy are the most common.
In individual therapy, also known as individual psychotherapy or individual counseling, the client and clinician meet one-on-one (usually from 45 minutes to 1 hour). These meetings typically occur weekly or every other week, and sessions are conducted in a confidential and caring environment (Figure). The clinician will work with clients to help them explore their feelings, work through life challenges, identify aspects of themselves and their lives that they wish to change, and set goals to help them work towards these changes. A client might see a clinician for only a few sessions, or the client may attend individual therapy sessions for a year or longer. The amount of time spent in therapy depends on the needs of the client as well as her personal goals.
In group therapy, a clinician meets together with several clients with similar problems (Figure). When children are placed in group therapy, it is particularly important to match clients for age and problems. One benefit of group therapy is that it can help decrease a client’s shame and isolation about a problem while offering needed support, both from the therapist and other members of the group (American Psychological Association, 2014). A nine-year-old sexual abuse victim, for example, may feel very embarrassed and ashamed. If he is placed in a group with other sexually abused boys, he will realize that he is not alone. A child struggling with poor social skills would likely benefit from a group with a specific curriculum to foster special skills. A woman suffering from post-partum depression could feel less guilty and more supported by being in a group with similar women.
Group therapy also has some specific limitations. Members of the group may be afraid to speak in front of other people because sharing secrets and problems with complete strangers can be stressful and overwhelming. There may be personality clashes and arguments among group members. There could also be concerns about confidentiality: Someone from the group might share what another participant said to people outside of the group.
Another benefit of group therapy is that members can confront each other about their patterns. For those with some types of problems, such as sexual abusers, group therapy is the recommended treatment. Group treatment for this population is considered to have several benefits:
Group treatment is more economical than individual, couples, or family therapy. Sexual abusers often feel more comfortable admitting and discussing their offenses in a treatment group where others are modeling openness. Clients often accept feedback about their behavior more willingly from other group members than from therapists. Finally, clients can practice social skills in group treatment settings. (McGrath, Cumming, Burchard, Zeoli, & Ellerby, 2009)
Groups that have a strong educational component are called psycho-educational groups. For example, a group for children whose parents have cancer might discuss in depth what cancer is, types of treatment for cancer, and the side effects of treatments, such as hair loss. Often, group therapy sessions with children take place in school. They are led by a school counselor, a school psychologist, or a school social worker. Groups might focus on test anxiety, social isolation, self-esteem, bullying, or school failure (Shechtman, 2002). Whether the group is held in school or in a clinician’s office, group therapy has been found to be effective with children facing numerous kinds of challenges (Shechtman, 2002).
During a group session, the entire group could reflect on an individual’s problem or difficulties, and others might disclose what they have done in that situation. When a clinician is facilitating a group, the focus is always on making sure that everyone benefits and participates in the group and that no one person is the focus of the entire session. Groups can be organized in various ways: some have an overarching theme or purpose, some are time-limited, some have open membership that allows people to come and go, and some are closed. Some groups are structured with planned activities and goals, while others are unstructured: There is no specific plan, and group members themselves decide how the group will spend its time and on what goals it will focus. This can become a complex and emotionally charged process, but it is also an opportunity for personal growth (Page & Berkow, 1994).
Couples therapy involves two people in an intimate relationship who are having difficulties and are trying to resolve them (Figure). The couple may be dating, partnered, engaged, or married. The primary therapeutic orientation used in couples counseling is cognitive behavior therapy (Rathus & Sanderson, 1999). Couples meet with a therapist to discuss conflicts and/or aspects of their relationship that they want to change. The therapist helps them see how their individual backgrounds, beliefs, and actions are affecting their relationship. Often, a therapist tries to help the couple resolve these problems, as well as implement strategies that will lead to a healthier and happier relationship, such as how to listen, how to argue, and how to express feelings. However, sometimes, after working with a therapist, a couple will realize that they are too incompatible and will decide to separate. Some couples seek therapy to work out their problems, while others attend therapy to determine whether staying together is the best solution. Counseling couples in a high-conflict and volatile relationship can be difficult. In fact, psychologists Peter Pearson and Ellyn Bader, who founded the Couples Institute in Palo Alto, California, have compared the experience of the clinician in couples’ therapy to be like “piloting a helicopter in a hurricane” (Weil, 2012, para. 7).
Family therapy is a special form of group therapy, consisting of one or more families. Although there are many theoretical orientations in family therapy, one of the most predominant is the systems approach. The family is viewed as an organized system, and each individual within the family is a contributing member who creates and maintains processes within the system that shape behavior (Minuchin, 1985). Each member of the family influences and is influenced by the others. The goal of this approach is to enhance the growth of each family member as well as that of the family as a whole.
Often, dysfunctional patterns of communication that develop between family members can lead to conflict. A family with this dynamic might wish to attend therapy together rather than individually. In many cases, one member of the family has problems that detrimentally affect everyone. For example, a mother’s depression, teen daughter’s eating disorder, or father’s alcohol dependence could affect all members of the family. The therapist would work with all members of the family to help them cope with the issue, and to encourage resolution and growth in the case of the individual family member with the problem.
With family therapy, the nuclear family (i.e., parents and children) or the nuclear family plus whoever lives in the household (e.g., grandparent) come into treatment. Family therapists work with the whole family unit to heal the family. There are several different types of family therapy. In structural family therapy, the therapist examines and discusses the boundaries and structure of the family: who makes the rules, who sleeps in the bed with whom, how decisions are made, and what are the boundaries within the family. In some families, the parents do not work together to make rules, or one parent may undermine the other, leading the children to act out. The therapist helps them resolve these issues and learn to communicate more effectively.
In strategic family therapy, the goal is to address specific problems within the family that can be dealt with in a relatively short amount of time. Typically, the therapist would guide what happens in the therapy session and design a detailed approach to resolving each member’s problem (Madanes, 1991).
There are several modalities of treatment: individual therapy, group therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy are the most common. In an individual therapy session, a client works one-on-one with a trained therapist. In group therapy, usually 5–10 people meet with a trained group therapist to discuss a common issue (e.g., divorce, grief, eating disorders, substance abuse, or anger management). Couples therapy involves two people in an intimate relationship who are having difficulties and are trying to resolve them. The couple may be dating, partnered, engaged, or married. The therapist helps them resolve their problems as well as implement strategies that will lead to a healthier and happier relationship. Family therapy is a special form of group therapy. The therapy group is made up of one or more families. The goal of this approach is to enhance the growth of each individual family member and the family as a whole.
A treatment modality in which 5–10 people with the same issue or concern meet together with a trained clinician is known as ________.
- family therapy
- couples therapy
- group therapy
- self-help group
What happens during an intake?
- The therapist gathers specific information to address the client’s immediate needs such as the presenting problem, the client’s support system, and insurance status. The therapist informs the client about confidentiality, fees, and what to expect in a therapy session.
- The therapist guides what happens in the therapy session and designs a detailed approach to resolving each member’s presenting problem.
- The therapist meets with a couple to help them see how their individual backgrounds, beliefs, and actions are affecting their relationship.
- The therapist examines and discusses with the family the boundaries and structure of the family: For example, who makes the rules, who sleeps in the bed with whom, and how decisions are made.
Critical Thinking Question
Compare and contrast individual and group therapies.
Your best friend tells you that she is concerned about her cousin. The cousin—a teenage girl—is constantly coming home after her curfew, and your friend suspects that she has been drinking. What treatment modality would you recommend to your friend and why?
- aversive conditioning:
- counterconditioning technique that pairs an unpleasant stimulant with an undesirable behavior
- behavior therapy:
- therapeutic orientation that employs principles of learning to help clients change undesirable behaviors
- biomedical therapy:
- treatment that involves medication and/or medical procedures to treat psychological disorders
- cognitive behavior therapy:
- form of psychotherapy that aims to change cognitive distortions and self-defeating behaviors
- cognitive therapy:
- form of psychotherapy that focuses on how a person’s thoughts lead to feelings of distress, with the aim of helping them change these irrational thoughts
- therapist cannot disclose confidential communications to any third party, unless mandated or permitted by law
- classical conditioning therapeutic technique in which a client learns a new response to a stimulus that has previously elicited an undesirable behavior
- couples therapy:
- two people in an intimate relationship, such as husband and wife, who are having difficulties and are trying to resolve them with therapy
- dream analysis:
- technique in psychoanalysis in which patients recall their dreams and the psychoanalyst interprets them to reveal unconscious desires or struggles
- electroconvulsive therapy (ECT):
- type of biomedical therapy that involves using an electrical current to induce seizures in a person to help alleviate the effects of severe depression
- exposure therapy:
- counterconditioning technique in which a therapist seeks to treat a client’s fear or anxiety by presenting the feared object or situation with the idea that the person will eventually get used to it
- family therapy:
- special form of group therapy consisting of one or more families
- free association:
- technique in psychoanalysis in which the patient says whatever comes to mind at the moment
- group therapy:
- treatment modality in which 5–10 people with the same issue or concern meet together with a trained clinician
- humanistic therapy:
- therapeutic orientation aimed at helping people become more self-aware and accepting of themselves
- individual therapy:
- treatment modality in which the client and clinician meet one-on-one
- therapist’s first meeting with the client in which the therapist gathers specific information to address the client’s immediate needs
- nondirective therapy:
- therapeutic approach in which the therapist does not give advice or provide interpretations but helps the person identify conflicts and understand feelings
- play therapy:
- therapeutic process, often used with children, that employs toys to help them resolve psychological problems
- therapeutic orientation developed by Sigmund Freud that employs free association, dream analysis, and transference to uncover repressed feelings
- (also, psychodynamic psychotherapy) psychological treatment that employs various methods to help someone overcome personal problems, or to attain personal growth
- rational emotive therapy (RET):
- form of cognitive behavior therapy
- Rogerian (client-centered therapy):
- non-directive form of humanistic psychotherapy developed by Carl Rogers that emphasizes unconditional positive regard and self-acceptance
- strategic family therapy:
- therapist guides the therapy sessions and develops treatment plans for each family member for specific problems that can addressed in a short amount of time
- structural family therapy:
- therapist examines and discusses with the family the boundaries and structure of the family: who makes the rules, who sleeps in the bed with whom, how decisions are made, and what are the boundaries within the family
- systematic desensitization:
- form of exposure therapy used to treat phobias and anxiety disorders by exposing a person to the feared object or situation through a stimulus hierarchy
- token economy:
- controlled setting where individuals are reinforced for desirable behaviors with tokens (e.g., poker chip) that be exchanged for items or privileges
- process in psychoanalysis in which the patient transfers all of the positive or negative emotions associated with the patient’s other relationships to the psychoanalyst
- unconditional positive regard:
- fundamental acceptance of a person regardless of what they say or do; term associated with humanistic psychology
- virtual reality exposure therapy:
- uses a simulation rather than the actual feared object or situation to help people conquer their fears