Unit 13

Treatment of Psychological Disorders

"Analysis does not set out to make pathological reactions impossible, but to give the patient's ego freedom to decide one way or another".

Psychological Treatments

Throughout history, many psychological patients were treated through brutal, outdated techniques, such as bleeding or "beating the devil out of them" (Myers).

But the work of 19th-century reformers like Dorothea Dix and Philippe Pinel brought change to this harmful environment through the advent of mental hospitals and institutions.


Therapeutic technique developed by  Sigmund Freud. He believed in the patient's free associations, resistances, dreams, and transferences. Therapists would then interpret these feelings that he believed were previously repressed.

Resistance- the blocking from consciousness from anxiety-laden material.

Interpretation- the analyst's noting supposed dream meanings, resistances, and other significant behaviors and events in order to promote insight.

Transference- the patient's transfer to the analyst of emotions linked with other relationships

Psychodynamic Therapy

A similar form of therapy derived from Psychoanalysis.  Focuses on unconscious forces and childhood experiences that seek to enhance self-insight.  

Differences from psychoanalysis:

  • talk face to face (rather than out of patient's line of sight)
  • once a week (rather than several times a week)
  • for only a few weeks or months (rather than several years)

Humanistic Therapies

Type of therapy that aims to boost self-fulfillment by helping people grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance.  Often referred to as insight therapies. 

Carl Rogers developed the widely used humanistic technique of client-centered therapy.

Client-centered Therapy- Humanistic therapy where the therapist uses techniques such as active listening within a genuine, accepting, empathetic environment to facilitate the client's growth.

Active Listening- Empathetic listening in which the listener echoes, restates, and clarifies.

Unconditioned Positive Regard- Caring, accepting, non-judgmental attitude described by Carl Rogers that he believed would help his clients to develop self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Behavior Therapies

Therapists that doubt the healing power of self-awareness employ the use of behavior therapies. Instead, they believe the root problem lies within destructive behaviors. The application of learning principles can help to eliminate these behaviors.

Counterconditioning- Behavior therapy procedure that uses classical condition to evoke new responses to stimuli that are triggering unwanted behaviors.

Exposure Therapies- Behavior techniques, such as systematic desensitization, that treat anxieties by exposing people to the things they fear and avoid.

Other examples of behavior therapies:

  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy
  • Aversive Conditioning
  • Token Economy

Cognitive Therapies

Therapy based on the assumption that thoughts intervene between events and our emotional reactions. They teach people new, more adaptive ways of thinking and acting, and they assume that our thinking colors our feelings.

Aaron Beck is most known for his therapies on depressions. Him and his colleagues sought to reverse clients' destructive beliefs about themselves, their situations, and their futures. He gently questions his clients to reveal irrational thinking and then to persuade people to remove their dark outlook of life.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy- Seeks to change both the way people think and also the way they act.

Group and Family Therapy

Instead of individual therapies, group and family therapies occur in small groups which encourage sharing. The social context allows people to discover that other people have problems similar to their own. Family therapy allows one to feel comforted because they are surrounded by their closest relatives.

Family therapy- Therapy that treats the family as a system. Views an individual's unwanted behavior as influenced by, or directed at, other family members.

These therapies save time and money, and are usually equally effective as individual therapy. They aim to heal relationships with others and family.

Biomedical Therapies

These therapies rely mostly on pharmaceutical drugs and medications to relieve symptoms of psychological disorders.
Psycho-pharmacology- The study of the effects of drugs on mind and behavior.

Anti-psychotic drugs- Drugs used to treat schizophrenia and other forms of severe thought disorder.

Anti-anxiety drugs- Drugs used to control anxiety and agitation.

Antidepressants- Drugs used to treat depression; also prescribed for anxiety.

Mood-stability medications- These medications can be used to stabilize mood for those suffering from bipolar disorders.

Brain Stimulation

By stimulation of the brain, researchers and psychologists have made progress on treatments through the use of controversial techniques.

ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)- Biomedical therapy for severely depressed people in which electric shocks are delivered to the brain for brief periods of time.

rTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)- Application of repeated pulses of magnetic energy to the brain. Used to stimulate/suppress brain activity.


Surgery on the brain may seem extreme, but there are effective treatments with astonishing results. Psychosurgery is the destruction of brain tissue in an effort to change behavior.

Lobotomy- Cut the nerves connecting the frontal lobes of the brain to the emotion-controlling centers of the inner brain.

Therapeutic Lifestyle Change

Some psychologists recommend simply a different lifestyle to treat disorders. This may include exercise, changing diet, or a greater social connection. This treatment was exemplified by the Ilardi team in 2008. The experimental procedure showed miraculous results- 77% of participants experienced a relief from depressive symptoms after a lifestyle change.

Stephen Ilardi

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