Introduction to Psychology Discussion Assignment
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Introduction to Psychology Discussion Assignment
Welcome to Lesson 8! You’ve arrived at the last lesson for your course in introductory psychology. Get ready to order in pizza to celebrate your noteworthy achievement. Meanwhile, let’s begin.
In your next-to-last lesson, based on Chapter 15, you received an overview of the various kinds of mental disorders, and the ways of arriving at an accurate diagnosis. In this lesson you’ll get some valuable insight into the different kinds of therapies. Basically that means differentiating biological approaches to mental disorders from the various kinds of psychotherapy. The latter includes psychodynamic theories, mainly attributed to the work of Sigmund Freud, behavioral therapies largely derived from the work of B. F. Skinner, and cognitive, humanist, and existential therapies.
The Biological Perspective
The essential assumption in biological approaches to mental disorders is simply stated. Mental disorders originate in physiological disorders. And since it seems that the brain is the “organ” of the mind, mental illness must, logically, originate directly or indirectly in brain functions—or dysfunctions. That’s the underlying assumption in most biological approaches to mental disorders and, as a result, as explained in your text, the most common treatment for all kinds of mental disorders amounts to the administration of a wide range of drugs. These include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs (tranquilizers). These drugs attempt to increase or decrease the balance of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin and, in the case of anxiety, increase the activity of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid.
The trouble is, just as people are different, so are the actual effects of any particular drug. For example, the anti-anxiety drug Prozac (not specifically mentioned in your text) was once touted as a sort of miracle drug. And in fact it seemed to work pretty well for some people. However, quite frequently, Prozac produced such levels of agitation that patients had to discontinue the use of the drug. Other drug cautions include the unknown side effects of particular drugs over time, disregard for possibly more effective drug-free therapy, and sometimes disconcerting relationships between the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry.
Beyond the use of drugs, biological researchers and physicians have also adopted techniques for directly impacting brain functioning. The most controversial of these techniques, called prefrontal lobotomy, employed surgical procedures that effectively disconnected the prefrontal lobe neural pathways to the rest of the brain. The procedure rapidly fell from favor as it became evident that the procedure rendered the subjects apathetic, withdrawn, and incapable of caring for themselves. A less damaging, but a still controversial procedure, is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Used for treating depression, the procedure often wipes out recent memories and may leave patients disoriented. Further, the symptoms of depression often return with a few weeks.
An alternative technique for treating depression, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), involves the use of a pulsing magnetic coil to stimulate the left prefrontal cortex. That’s a part of the brain that tends to be relatively inactive in people suffering from depression. TMS tends to have fewer side effects than does ECT.
The Psychodynamic Perspective
It’s fair to say that the advent of modern psychology began with Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). His therapeutic system, psychoanalysis, emphasizes unconscious influences that impact a person’s mental health. Practitioners who adopt some version of psychoanalysis focus on repressed events of early childhood. Clinical techniques aim at helping patients recover repressed memories buried in the subject’s unconscious. Freudian psychoanalysis involves many sessions, often over a period of years. For that reason alone, for all but the well-to-do, classical psychoanalysis isn’t a realistic option.
The ideas of both Freud and his reluctant heir, Carl Jung, have had a significant impact on Western culture. Simply from watching TV dramas, many of us are aware of the Freudian term transference. We know that the term refers to a tendency to transfer one’s feelings about a key childhood player to the therapist. Thus, a woman may transfer her feelings about a beloved father to the therapist. Some people speak of “Freudian slips” or “anal personalities” without having any real understanding of psychoanalysis. Or they may use the terms “introvert and extravert” without knowing those terms come from the analytical psychology of Carl Jung.
Behavioral and Cognitive Perspectives
Behaviorism began with the work of a Russian researcher, Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936). You may have read about how he trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a tuning fork. The process amounted to repeatedly associating feeding time with the sound of the tuning fork until, at last, the dog would salivate simply from hearing the tuning fork. Thus, that sound became a conditioned stimulus that evoked a conditioned response, i.e., salivation. In America, psychologist John Watson left academia, founded an ad agency, and adopted the principles of classical conditioning to advertising. As a student of psychology, you can learn to spot, for example, the way attractive stimuli (sunsets, happy children, cute dogs) are associated with products.
While classical conditioning set the stage for behaviorism in general, practical approaches for behavior modification came into full flower with the operant conditioning concepts developed by B. F. Skinner. As you’ll learn in your text, behavior therapies have been helpful through the use of specific techniques. For example, let’s say that John H. has a deep-seated fear of spiders. Through gradual exposure, step by step, John may finally get to the point where he can hold a harmless spider in his hand. Another technique may apply for a person who is terrified of enclosed spaces. The subject may be placed inside a metal cage to come face to face with his inner demon. That rather dramatic technique is called flooding.
Other helpful behavioral techniques may include coaching the subject to recognize his or her self-defeating behaviors. Yet another technique can involve skills training. For example, Sally B. dreads public speaking. To help her gain more confidence she may be guided to reading sources and exercises that address the various symptoms of stage fright.
The concepts of cognitive therapy follow from a psychological fact. Namely, both our behaviors and our ways of thinking are mainly patterns of habit. So we can be guided to recognize our negative and positive thought habits. For example, we can realize that we habitually embrace negative thoughts about our prospective future. To address that habit, we can learn to adopt more accurate and realistic thought habits. Put another way, especially in the context of depression, clients can learn techniques for abandoning irrational or unrealistic thinking in favor of rational and realistic thinking that can empower them.
Humanist and Existential Perspectives
Today, clinical psychologists are generally inclined to apply a “whatever works” philosophy. In that regard, especially during the 1960s, a number of clinical psychologists rejected psychodynamic and behavioral therapies in favor of humanist and nondirective client-centered therapies. The latter was based on the work of Carl Rogers. However, at the heart of all the existential approaches is a focus on the here and now. In the humanist perspective, the essence of getting to that here and now is, in effect, helping clients become the “best that they can be.” In the perspective of Roger’s client-centered therapies, the therapeutic alliance is characterized by true concern, warmth, and empathy.
Family and group therapies are related to existential therapies. A key idea here is that individual sentiments, behaviors, and thought habits can only be understood as we identify the dynamics of a family or close-knit group. The therapeutic objective is helping family members better understand their influences on one another. So, in effect, we recognize that we can’t grasp an individual’s hurts and anxieties without identifying the interactive influences of family or group members.
Evaluating the Schools of Psychotherapy
The wrap-up of Chapter 16 provides you a very helpful guide to how specific therapies are either helpful or not helpful. You should read this section very carefully. As you do, you’ll come to understand what your text calls the scientist-practitioner gap. That gap identifies the different perspectives of research scientists and clinical practitioners. The former worry that many kinds of psychotherapies can’t be adequately evaluated using the scientific method. The latter argue that the processes and outcomes of a specific psychotherapy can only be seen as qualities or productive patterns that emerge in the context of a therapeutic alliance.
Good luck with your lesson and congratulations on completing your course.
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