Chapter summary imageWhat techniques do psychologists use to treat mental illnesses?

HOW HAS THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS, AND HOW IS IT STRUCTURED TODAY?

  • Until the 17th century, the mentally ill were often treated in cruel and inhumane ways. Reformers such as Pinel campaigned for moral treatment.
  • Today, clinical psychology, which aims to help people suffering from psychological disorders, lies at the centre of the mental health system structure.

HOW DO BIOMEDICAL THERAPIES TREAT PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS?

  • Psychopharmacology, the study of how drugs affect the mind and behaviour, has led to the development of a wide array of psychoactive medications.
  • Antipsychotic drugs treat disorders such as schizophrenia. Typical antipsychotics (chlorpromazine and haloperidol) treat positive symptoms by decreasing dopamine activity. Atypical antipsychotics treat negative symptoms.
  • Antidepressants alleviate depression by altering how neurotransmitters, usually serotonin and norepinephrine, are circulated throughout the brain.
  • Benzodiazepines treat anxiety disorders by slowing down the central nervous system, while lithium controls bipolar mood swings for many sufferers.

HOW DO PSYCHODYNAMIC AND HUMANISTIC THERAPIES TREAT PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS?

  • Psychodynamic therapies trace clients’ problems to past experiences and focus on understanding symptoms through clients’ personal relationships.
  • Humanistic therapies aim to help people achieve self-awareness and positive self-regard so that they can effectively solve their own problems.

HOW DO COGNITIVE AND BEHAVIOURAL THERAPIES TREAT PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS?

  • Cognitive-behaviour therapy aims to help people change the way they think and act.
  • With cognitive restructuring, therapists teach clients to replace negative thinking with realistic and positive thinking.
  • Behavioural therapy seeks to change the behaviours associated with psychological problems by using exposure treatments, such as systematic desensitization, implosion therapy, and flooding.

WHAT FACTORS MAKE PSYCHOTHERAPY AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT, AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE IN USE TO BIOMEDICAL TREATMENTS?

  • In general, most people who receive psychotherapy report improvement; some therapy appears to be better than no therapy.
  • Psychotherapy often works because it provides clients support, hope, and a new perspective on their problems. Clients must be motivated to get better in order to improve.