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CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVES ON ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR AND METHODS OF
2.1 Identify the parts of the neuron and describe their functions.
2.2 Identify the major parts of the nervous system and the cerebral cortex, and describe their functions.
2.3 Evaluate biological perspectives on abnormal behavior.
2.4 Describe the major psychological models of abnormal behavior, identify the major theorists, and
evaluate these models.
2.5 Describe the sociocultural perspective and evaluate its importance in understanding abnormal
2.6 Describe and evaluate the biopsychosocial perspective on abnormal behavior, and identify a major
2.7 Identify the major types of helping professionals, and describe their training backgrounds and
2.8 Describe the goals and techniques of various forms of psychotherapy: psychodynamic therapy,
behavior therapy, person-centered therapy, cognitive therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, eclectic
therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and couple therapy.
2.9 Evaluate the effectiveness of psychotherapy and the role of nonspecific factors in therapy.
2.10 Describe the importance of multicultural factors in psychotherapy, and barriers to use of mental
health services by ethnic minorities.
2.11 Identify the major categories of psychotropic or psychiatric drugs and examples of drugs in each
type, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
2.12 Describe the use of electroconvulsive therapy and psychosurgery, and evaluate their effectiveness.
2.13 Evaluate biomedical treatment approaches.
I. The Biological Perspective
A. The Nervous System
B. Evaluating Biological Perspectives on Abnormal Behavior
II. The Psychological Perspective
A. Psychodynamic Models
B. Evaluating Psychodynamic Models
C. Learning-Based Models
D. Evaluating Learning Models
E. Humanistic Models
F. Evaluating Humanistic Models
G. Cognitive Models
H. Evaluating Cognitive Models
III. The Sociocultural Perspective
A. Ethnicity and Mental Health
B. Evaluating the Sociocultural Perspective
IV. The Biopsychosocial Perspective
A. The Diathesis-Stress Model
B. Evaluating the Biopsychosocial Perspective
C. The Case of Jessica—A Final Word
V. Methods of Treatment
VI. Types of Helping Professionals
A. Psychodynamic Therapy
B. Behavior Therapy
C. Humanistic Therapy
D. Cognitive Therapy
E. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
F. Eclectic Therapy
G. Group, Family, and Couple Therapy
H. Evaluating the Methods of Psychotherapy
I. Multicultural Issues in Psychotherapy
J. Barriers to Use of Mental Health Services by Ethnic Minorities
VII. Biomedical Therapies
A. Drug Therapy
B. Electroconvulsive Therapy
D. Evaluation of Biomedical Approaches
The Biological Perspective
Abnormal behavior may be viewed from various contemporary perspectives. The medical model
conceptualizes abnormal behavior patterns like physical diseases, in terms of clusters of symptoms, called
syndromes, which have distinctive causes that are presumed to be biological in nature. Biological
perspectives incorporate the medical model but refer more broadly to approaches that relate abnormal
behavior to biological processes and apply biologically-based treatments.
The Psychological Perspective
Psychodynamic models reflect the views of Freud and his followers, who believed that abnormal behavior
stemmed from psychological causes involving underlying psychic forces. Freud developed
psychoanalysis as a means of uncovering the unconscious conflicts dating back to childhood that he
believed were at the root of mental disorders such as hysteria.
Learning theorists posit that the principles of learning can be used to explain both abnormal and normal
behavior. Behavior therapy is an outgrowth of the learning model.
Humanists reject the determinism of psychodynamic theory and behaviorism. Humanistic theorists
believe that it is important to understand the obstacles that people encounter as they strive toward selfactualization and authenticity.
Cognitive theorists focus on the role of distorted and self-defeating thinking in explaining abnormal
behavior. They apply some of the behavioral techniques to cognitive therapies.
The Sociocultural Perspective
Sociocultural theorists believe that abnormal behavior is rooted in social ills, such as poverty,
discrimination, and social stressors, not in the individual. Today, many theorists believe that multiple
factors interacting in complex ways are involved in the development of abnormal behavior patterns.
The Biopsychosocial Perspective
The leading interactionist model, the diathesis–stress model, posits that some people have predispositions
(diathesis) for particular disorders, but whether these disorders actually develop depends upon the type
and severity of the stressors they experience.
Methods of Treatment
The treatment someone with a psychological disorder receives is likely to vary not only with the type of
disorder involved but also with the therapeutic orientation and professional background of the helping
professional. A psychiatrist might recommend medication, perhaps in combination with psychotherapy. A
cognitively oriented psychologist might suggest a program of cognitive therapy.
Types of Helping Professionals
Many people are confused about the different types of mental health professionals. The major
professional groupings of mental health professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers,
nurses, and counselors.
Psychotherapy involves a systematic interaction between therapists and clients that incorporate
psychological principles to help clients overcome abnormal behavior, solve problems in living, or develop
as individuals. The various approaches to psychotherapy employ theory-based specific treatment factors
and nonspecific factors, such as the quality of the therapeutic relationship and the installation of hope.
Psychodynamic therapies originated with psychoanalysis, the approach to treatment developed by Freud.
Psychoanalysts use techniques, such as free association and dream analysis, to help people gain insight
into their unconscious conflicts and work through them in the light of their adult personalities. More
recent psychoanalytic therapies are generally briefer and less intensive.
Behavior therapy applies principles of learning to help people make adaptive behavioral changes.
Behavior therapy techniques include systematic desensitization, gradual exposure, modeling, aversive
conditioning, operant conditioning approaches, social skills training, self-control techniques, and
Humanistic approaches focus on the client’s subjective, conscious experience in the here and now. Rogers’
person-centered therapy helps people increase their awareness and acceptance of inner feelings that had
met with social condemnation and been disowned. The effective person-centered therapist possesses the
qualities of unconditional positive regard, empathic understanding, genuineness, and congruence.
Cognitive therapies focus on modifying the maladaptive cognitions that are believed to underlie
emotional problems and self-defeating behavior. Ellis’ rational-emotive therapy focuses on disputing the
irrational beliefs that cause emotional distress and substituting adaptive behavior for maladaptive
behavior. Beck’s cognitive therapy focuses on helping clients identify, challenge, and replace distorted
cognitions, such as tendencies to magnify negative events and minimize personal accomplishments.
Cognitive-behavior therapy integrates the behavioral and cognitive approaches.
Eclectic therapists make use of multiple models of psychotherapy. In technical eclecticism, therapists use
techniques from different approaches without necessarily adopting the theoretical models on which they
were based. In integrative eclecticism, therapists attempt to synthesize and integrate diverse theoretical
Group therapy has several advantages over individual treatment, such as reduced costs, opportunities for
shared learning experiences and mutual support, and increased utilization of scarce therapist resources.
The particular approach to group therapy depends on the orientation of the therapist. Family therapists
work with conflicted families to help them resolve their differences. Family therapists focus on clarifying
family communications, resolving role conflicts, guarding against scapegoating individual members, and
helping members develop greater autonomy. Marital therapists focus on helping couples improve their
communications and resolve their differences.
Psychotherapy researchers have generated encouraging evidence of the effectiveness of psychotherapy.
Although there are few well-designed head-to-head comparative treatment studies, the results of metaanalyses of research studies that compare psychotherapy with control groups support the efficacy of
various approaches to psychotherapy.
Therapists need to take cultural factors into account in determining the appropriateness of Western forms
of psychotherapy for different cultural groups. Some groups, for example, may have different views of the
importance of the autonomy of the individual, or may place more value on spiritual than
Biological approaches include drug therapy, deep brain stimulation, electroconvulsive shock therapy
(ECT), and psychosurgery. Minor tranquilizers, such as Valium, may relieve short-term anxiety but do
not directly help people solve their problems. Neuroleptics help relieve flagrant psychotic features, but
regular use of most antipsychotic drugs has been associated with a risk of disabling side effects.
Antidepressants have been known to be effective in treating depressive disorders, and lithium has been
known to be effective in treating bipolar disorder. ECT and deep brain stimulation are often associated
with dramatic relief from severe depression, but questions remain about side effects. Psychosurgery is
conducted only rarely because of adverse consequences.
Lecture and Discussion Suggestions
1. Neurotransmitters in abnormal behavior. There is mounting evidence that neurotransmitters play a
significant role in various abnormal behaviors; however, the exact causal mechanisms have not been
determined. For instance, deficiencies in dopamine are linked to Parkinson’s disease, excesses in
dopamine reactivity are found in schizophrenia, and antipsychotic drugs are thought to alleviate psychotic
symptoms by blocking the action of dopamine. Excesses and deficiencies of norepinephrine (both a
neurotransmitter and a hormone) are involved in mood disorders and eating disorders. Also, serotonin
may be linked with anxiety, insomnia, and mood disorders.
2. Psychoanalytic theory and sexism. One of the most controversial of Freud‘s views involves his
notions about the phallic stage of development. A particularly controversial topic within this stage is his
concept of penis envy. Briefly, Freud believes that when a little girl notices how she differs from little
boys, she feels cheated. She blames her mother for her lack of a penis, and rejects mother and tries to
displace her in father‘s eyes—in effect, to become ―daddy‘s darling.‖ The little girl unconsciously hopes
that her father will give her a penis. When he does not, she compensates with the wish for a child. There
are a number of important consequences of this process, each with applications for abnormal psychology:
a. Women have weaker superegos than males.
b. Women feel inferior to men and contemptuous of other women.
c. Women become passive, vain, jealous, and masochistic.
d. Women should give up infantile gratification from the clitoris and prepare for adult
gratification through intercourse.
This view has been criticized for decades. Some believe it has helped instill a bias toward diagnosing
more abnormal disorders among women. Others say the concept has no validity. Still others believe that
women are indeed envious—of the power and control males have traditionally enjoyed. This topic is
likely to produce a lively debate among students.
Lips, H. M. (1993). Sex and Gender: An Introduction. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Co.
Travis, C. & Wade, C. The Longest War: Sex Differences in Perspective, 2nd Ed. New York: Harcourt
3. Consider the implications of the Human Genome Project. The mapping of the human genome was
a controversial project involving scientists across the world. Many feared that once the project was
complete, the eugenics movement would flourish and society would use prenatal DNA testing to select
for and/or manipulate genes to create a society of ―perfect‖ people. Have students discuss these fears and
future possibilities resulting from these scientific advances. Should limitations be placed on the use of
these technologies? Equally important, given that most conditions are polygenetic (they require the
unique combination of many genes rather than a single gene), have students consider the reasonableness
of such fears.
4. The family systems perspective. Students may be interested in contrasting the view of abnormal
behavior, which family systems theorists take, with the other perspectives presented in the chapter. Of
particular interest is the idea that a person’s behavior and emotions need to be examined within their
social context, rather than as isolated phenomena. Family systems theorists view abnormal (and normal)
behavior as an interaction between two people, not as a unilateral action by one person. They argue that
many behaviors that initially appear to be abnormal turn out to be highly adaptive given the unique and
often ―abnormal‖ environment in which the person is operating.
5. Discuss the issue of free will versus determinism as it applies to mental illness and therapeutic
treatment approaches. The issue of free will and determinism is an underlying theme in any discussion
of mental illness and its treatment, and students often bring strong opinions about this subject into the
course. At this point in the course at may be useful to ask the following questions:
1. What are the psychological implications of not believing in free will? Determinism implies a loss
of control; belief in free will may be adaptive if it increases our self-efficacy. This issue can be
related to the concept of internal vs. external locus of control. Is it healthier to believe in free will
or to live as if we have free will, whether or not it exists?
2. Is the scientific study of human behavior compatible with a belief in free will?
3. Is free will something that can be studied empirically? If so, how?
4. What view of human behavior does our society hold, as evidenced by various religious and legal
5. Can a psychopathologist who believes in free will logically support an exception for being not
guilty by reason of insanity?
6. Perspectives and abnormality. Students often enjoy and learn from applying the theoretical material
in the course to actual cases. Divide the class into six groups, and have each group adopt one of the
theoretical perspectives described in this chapter (biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, learning,
humanistic, and cognitive). Using a case from the text (e.g., ―Jessica‘s ‗Little Secret‘‖), or one from your
own experience, have each group attempt to explain the ―client’s‖ behavior from the theoretical
perspective they have adopted. After each group has presented its perspective, have group members
debate key questions and issues in an attempt to demonstrate the merit of their theoretical perspective.
Students should consider concerns with each perspective, such as theories of etiology, treatment
implications, ability to test hypotheses suggested by each perspective, and so on. After the debate,
challenge students to consider whether there are factors in the case that, if changed, might convince
students that a different perspective would be more accurate. For example, would students be more likely
to consider a biological perspective if they discover many family members, even those adopted into other
families at birth, shared the condition? Similarly, would they consider a diathesis-stress model if the
condition only developed after a stressful or traumatic event?
7. Psychodynamic vs. learning approaches. Psychodynamic and learning advocates have long argued
about the efficacy of each other’s therapeutic techniques. An issue is whether the behavioral ―symptom‖
or the ―underlying‖ cause should be treated. Consider the case of an autistic child with a pattern of
repetitious, self-injurious behavior. One could treat the behavioral symptom with operant conditioning
techniques, but would that be sufficient to prevent a relapse of the behavior pattern, or some similar one,
in the future? Or could it result in the substitution of a new, even more injurious behavior pattern for the
original behavior that was eliminated? If there is an underlying cause and it is left untreated, might not a
problem recur? If an underlying cause is identified and treated, how would this be done?
8. Length of treatment and client improvement. Much of the current research in this area is focused
on specific, measurable factors that make therapy effective, using meta-analysis. Meta-analysis is a
statistical technique that provides a more robust and comprehensive understanding of a phenomenon by
averaging the results of a large number of studies. In one study, Kenneth Howard and his colleagues
(―The Dose-Effect Relationship in Psychotherapy,‖ American Psychologist, 1986, 41, 159–164)
reviewed 15 studies with 2,431 clients and found a positive relationship between the length of treatment
and client improvement. About one-third of the clients improved within the first three sessions, regardless
of the eventual length of the treatment, and half improved by eight sessions. About three-fourths of the
clients had improved by twenty-six sessions. However, the rate of improvement varied among the
different types of clients. Depressed clients usually improved the most after the first few sessions. But,
clients with anxiety disorders generally took a somewhat higher number of sessions before improving,
and the more severely disturbed psychotic clients required the highest number of sessions of all. Although
such findings do not prove that time-limited therapy is as effective as time-unlimited therapy, twenty-six
sessions could be used as a point in the treatment process at which cases that have not shown any
measurable improvement would be subjected to a clinical review.
9. When to terminate therapy. Clients and therapists sometimes find it difficult to determine when a
client should terminate therapy. One reason is the gap between subjective (client) ratings and objective
(therapist) ratings of improvement. One study by Kenneth Howard and his colleagues (American
Psychologist, 1986, 41, 159–164) examined this phenomenon and found significant differences between
the two. More specifically, clients begin to feel better long before their therapists see behavioral signs of
improvement. Usually, it isn’t until after about six months of therapy that clients’ and therapists’ ratings
begin to merge. Even then, in making the decision to terminate therapy, Lester Luborsky (Archives of
General Psychiatry, 1985, 42, 602–611) suggests using two criteria. First, does the client feel that the
problems that brought him or her to therapy are under control? Second, does the client believe that the
gains achieved in therapy can be maintained without the therapist? Generally, it is suggested that the
client and therapist review the progress made in therapy in light of the client’s original goals, with the
client eventually having more say in whether these goals have been met. In addition, using psychological
assessment tools to systematically assess the frequency and severity of symptoms at regular intervals
throughout the course of therapy may also improve client-therapist congruence.
10. The therapeutic relationship. Ask students how a therapeutic relationship differs from a friendship.
What are the advantages of getting help from a therapist rather than a friend? Such advantages include
expert opinion, confidentiality, objectivity, and separation from one’s social relationships.
11. Drug treatment. Discuss the pros and cons of drug treatment (psychopharmacology) and the types of
clients and problems where drugs may be a cost-efficient approach. Research indicates that even chronic
conditions requiring life-long drug treatment are more effective when used in conjunction with
psychotherapy. Discuss why this is the case (e.g., in many instances clients also need to develop better
coping strategies for dealing with chronic mental illness and future problems the condition may create). It
may also be useful to challenge resistance to drug treatment for psychological illness by comparing
standards of care for other biologically based chronic illnesses such as diabetes. As evidence grows
indicating that many psychological disorders are also based in biological systems, resistance to
psychopharmacology may dissipate.
12. Ethics. Not all those offering psychotherapy services are ethical. Students can be reminded of some
of the ethics of psychologists who offer their services to the public. For example, therapists should not
practice outside their expertise. Psychologists do not treat those close to them, such as friends, relatives,
or employees. They do not treat patients of another professional unless a clear referral has been made.
They avoid dual relationships (e.g., therapist and business consultant or friend) with clients. Ethical
practices include safeguarding confidential records. Psychologists discuss your records with others only
with your consent, except in certain unusual circumstances. Psychologists are responsible for the work
performed by their assistants.
13. Nonspecific factors. Scott Lilienfield presents an interesting comparison between those who say
psychotherapy works and those who are not yet so sure. In the process he reviews a classic work by
Jerome Frank, where Frank argues that at least four nonspecific factors are responsible for almost any
improvement that is seen. Discuss Frank’s assertions, which are generally supported by some of the
a. The therapist is the expert. Any of us might become more hopeful in the hands of this expert.
b. Psychotherapy takes place in settings associated with helping. Typical trappings include
degrees and licenses on the wall, receptionists to usher clients in, and so on.
c. Most therapies proceed from a coherent theory or rationale. When explained to the patient, it
also provides clear hope that his/her problem can be understood.
d. Therapy has techniques—rituals, according to Frank. Whether it is free association, exposure
therapy, or relaxation, these create the impression that something is happening. Just exactly
what is happening can be a bit mysterious to the client, which actually heightens the effect.
Therapists are not unlike faith healers, according to Frank.
14. Psychotherapy: Alternative views. It can be provocative to discuss some of the writers who have
taken shots at psychotherapy. You might ask students to find and report on some of these. Here are two
that are interesting. Psychoanalyst James Hillman argues that therapy causes people to look inward, thus
ignoring worsening social and political conditions around them. Growth, a popular theme in many
schools of therapy, is a fantasy that ignores the fact that the personality is relatively immune to change.
R. D. Rosen popularized the term ―psychobabble‖ to denote the vague language, catchy terms, and cute
phrases that are sometimes found in therapy jargon. Psychobabble implies, says Rosen that we can reach
well-being immediately, just by asserting that we are no longer ―uptight‖ or ―hung up.‖
Hillman, J. & Ventura, M. (1992). We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy—and the World’s
Getting Worse. San Francisco: Harper Collins.
Rosen, R. D. (1977) Psychobabble. New York: Avon Books.
15. Is aversive therapy ethical? In aversion therapy, a noxious stimulus is applied when unwanted
behavior occurs. For example, an alcoholic might receive an electric shock when he picks up a drink, or a
person with a sexual fetish for boots, likewise, receives an electric shock while viewing or handling boots.
Such aversive methods have been used with these disorders, as well as with people with mental
retardation. Aversive methods have included electric shock, nausea-inducing drugs, and squirts in the
mouth with lemon juice.
Discuss with the class the ethics of inflicting pain and discomfort as a treatment method. Is this ethical to
use on a child with mental retardation, who is banging his or her head against the wall and in danger of
hurting himself/herself? What about for a person with alcoholism, who has done so much damage to
himself/herself that further drinking will likely kill him/her? How about with an exhibitionist, who keeps
getting arrested and has failed to respond to other therapy?
A particularly difficult question involves using such aversive procedures on people who are too young or
otherwise unable to give their informed consent to the procedure. If it is unethical to inflict pain via shock
or drugs, is it likewise unethical for a therapist to rouse painful memories that a client in more traditional
therapy might have?
It is important to point out to the class that aversive procedures are seldom used alone, and they are
seldom the first choice by therapists. Such procedures are regulated, especially when they involve those
unable to consent.
Think About It
Do you believe that abnormal behavior is more a function of nature (biology) or nurture
(environment)? Explain. This is a personal opinion question. Students should be able to give specifics
about the nature/nurture controversy.
Encourage them to 1) maintain a skeptical attitude, 2) consider the definitions of the terms, 3) weigh the
assumptions or promises on which arguments are based, 4) bear in mind that correlation is not causation,
5) consider the kinds of evidence on which conclusions are based, 6) do not oversimplify, 7) do not
Can you think of examples of behaviors in others (or yourself) in which defense mechanisms may
have played a role? A classic example of defense mechanisms is the use of denial. What student has not
used a bit of denial in their school careers when it comes to a bad grade? Denial would be the minimizing,
―forgetting‖ or ignoring of a poor test grade. That denial may turn into rationalization. Say a student
failed his or her psychology exam. He or she may rationalize by saying, ―Well, I had no time to study; I
was out partying last night.‖ Or, ―It‘s my instructor‘s fault; she never lectures on the book.‖
Underlying the psychodynamic approach is the belief that we are not usually aware of the deeper
motives and impulses that drive our behavior. Do you agree? Why or why not? This is a personal
opinion question. Students should be aware of the role the unconscious plays in behavior.
How might a complex belief, such as belief in free will or majority rule, be shaped by the
environment? Behaviorists Watson and Skinner believed that the environment shapes even complex
beliefs. As a researcher in classical conditioning, Watson was interested in the induction of fears and
phobias through classical conditioning. He is credited with saying: ―Give me a dozen healthy infants,
well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random
and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and,
yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and
race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary
and they have been doing it for many thousands of years. [Behaviorism (1930), p. 82]‖ The idea was that
free will could be induced through associations, classically. Skinner discarded beliefs of personal freedom
and choice, and saw complex ideas such as these as solely the result of operant conditioning. He believed
the role of reinforcement was all-important in establishing human behavior.
How has your present behavior been influenced by your learning history? What learning principles
(classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning) can you use to account for
your behavior, both normal and abnormal? This is a personal experience question. Students need to be
very familiar with the differences among classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational
Whom would you consider to be a self-actualizer? Why or why not? This is a personal opinion
question. Students should know the principle of self-actualization.
Can you think of examples from your personal life in which your thinking style reflected one or
more of the cognitive distortions identified by Beck—selective abstraction, over-generalization,
magnification, or absolutist thinking? What effects did these thought patterns have on your moods?
On your level of motivation? Do you think you can change how you think about your experiences?
Why or why not? This is a personal experience question. Students should know Beck‘s cognitivebehavioral principles and apply them to their life.
How can researchers distinguish the effects of socioeconomic status from that of ethnicity?
Researchers recognize that income or socioeconomic status needs to be considered when comparing rates
of a given diagnosis across ethnic groups. They must be cautious and think critically when interpreting
ethnic group differences in rates of diagnosis. The differences might reflect other issues in socioeconomic
level, living conditions, and cultural backgrounds. When findings are controlled for socioeconomic levels,
supposed differences often disappear. For example, higher rates of mental illness found in African
American populations disappear when compared by socioeconomic status.
Do you believe the root causes of abnormal behavior lie in the environment? In the person? In a
combination of the two? Why? This is a personal opinion question. Students should be familiar with the
sociocultural and learning perspectives in explaining abnormal behavior.
Why is it necessary to understand and consider multiple perspectives in explaining abnormal
behavior? There are several models for understanding and explaining abnormal behavior. The fact that
there are different ways of looking at the same phenomenon doesn‘t mean that one model must be right
and the others wrong. Many theorists today propose an interactional approach to the explanation of
complex behavior. The biopsychosocial perspective considers how biological, psychological, and social
factors are linked in the development of abnormal behavior patterns. Behavior is indeed complex. Perhaps
no singular model can best explain it.
What are the major types of mental health professionals? How do they differ in their training and
the types of roles they perform? The major mental health professions include psychologists,
psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, and counselors. Psychologists are trained in graduate schools of
psychology and typically earn an academic doctoral degree. Their expertise is in research, teaching,
assessment, and clinical practice. Psychiatrists are trained in medical schools as physicians, and then
specialize in psychiatry. They can prescribe medication and typically hold a biological view of mental
illness. Social workers usually obtain a master‘s degree in social work. They specialize in sociocultural
aspects of mental illness including group and family interventions. Nurses are trained medically, and then
specialize in psychiatric nursing. They are typically found in hospitals and clinics. The background and
training of counselors vary in different states. A counselor usually has an advanced degree in some
discipline but may not. Some states license counselors, requiring substantial credentials.
What are the basic features of psychotherapy? There are four basic features of psychotherapy: 1)
Systematic interaction; therapists and clients must interact in a structure with plans and purposes that
reflect the therapist‘s theoretical point of view. 2) Psychological principles; psychotherapists draw on
psychological principles, theory, and research in their practices. 3) Behavior, thoughts, and feelings;
psychotherapy may be directed at behavioral, cognitive, and emotional domains to help clients better their
lives. 4) Abnormal behavior, problem solving, and personal growth; many people benefit from
psychotherapy, such as people with abnormal behavior problems, people who seek help for problems that
are not regarded as abnormal, and people who seek personal growth.
What type of therapy would you prefer if you were seeking treatment for a psychological disorder?
Why? This is a personal opinion question. Students should be familiar with the wide variety of therapies
and theoretical perspectives.
Encourage them to 1) maintain a skeptical attitude, 2) consider the definitions of the terms, 3) weigh the
assumptions or promises on which arguments are based, 4) bear in mind that correlation is not causation,
5) consider the kinds of evidence on which conclusions are based, 6) do not oversimplify, 7) do not
Is psychotherapy effective? What evidence exists to support the efficacy of psychotherapy? The
effectiveness of psychotherapy receives strong support from research literature. Meta-analysis is a
statistical technique that compares a large number of studies. A well-known 1977 study using metaanalysis found positive outcomes in the effectiveness of psychotherapy. (Clients in therapy were better off
than 75 percent of those untreated.) Since then, we have more studies supporting the effectiveness of
psychotherapy. Positive outcome is now so well established that the American Psychological Association
has composed a list of empirically supported treatments.
What cultural issues do therapists need to consider when working with members of diverse cultural
and racial groups? It is essential that culture, race, and ethnicity be taken into account when working
with a diverse group. Therapists need to be sensitive to cultural differences and how they may affect the
therapeutic process. They also need to avoid ethnic stereotyping and to demonstrate sensitivity to the
values, languages, and cultural beliefs of members of racial or ethnic groups that are different than their
own. Therapists need to know the cultural history and context of the groups they are working with. For
example, therapists should not confuse the suspiciousness of an African-American client with paranoia
given the cultural context of minimal self-disclosure. Differences in values need to be appreciated.
What problems do you see in taking pills to cope with anxiety or depression that may stem from
academic or social difficulties? This is a personal opinion question. Students need to know the variety of
drug classifications used in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
1. Discuss some of the implications of wholistic medicine for mental health. The emphasis on
positive physical health rather than sickness has led to greater concern for prevention, nutrition, fitness,
and stress management. But to what extent has the emphasis on positive health affected our attitudes and
practices in the area of mental health?
2. Discuss the multiple social, cultural, and biological factors that contribute to ethnic differences
in the rates of mental illness. The book describes several differences among ethnic groups in rates of
general and specific forms of mental illness, abnormal behavior, and health. For example, adolescent and
young adult Native American males have the highest suicide rates in the nation; Asian Americans in the
U.S. have the lowest rates of psychological disorders, while rates among Native Hawaiians are
significantly higher. However, rates of mental illness are no higher for African Americans than they are
for Caucasians when socioeconomic status is taken into account. What are some of the factors that
account for these differences? Encourage students to consider factors such as cultural norms concerning
the expression of physical versus psychological symptoms, economic stress, acculturative stress,
voluntary versus involuntary immigration, and the influence of racism and discrimination on mental
3. Irrational beliefs and problem behaviors. Select one or more items from Ellis’s list of irrational
beliefs; such as ―To be a good person I must be perfect in everything I do,‖ or ―Once something has
negatively affected me it will always affect me,‖ or ―To be a good person everyone in my life should like
me.‖ Then, illustrate how this belief affects our behavior. For example, you might take ―life must go the
way you want it to go.‖ How would this belief affect your reaction to a situation in which things do not
turn out the way you expect, as so often happens? Now, convert the same statement to a rational one, such
as “when things don’t turn out the way I want, it’s not the end of the world—I have other options.”
Discuss the difference this might make in your behavior.
4. Biological or environmental causes of abnormality. Have students draw a Likert-type scale with
―all biology‖ on one end of the scale and ―all environment‖ on the other end of the scale. Then ask them
to place the various theories or relevant theorists discussed in Chapter 2 on the appropriate point on the
scale. While some theorists like Freud or Skinner and biological perspectives should be relatively easy to
place, others will be more difficult and should lead to some discussion of the differences in how the
theories approach this dimension of personality. You might then ask students to discuss how theories that
are highly biological in their perspective would necessarily differ in their conceptualization of
abnormality, and in the development of treatment, from those theories that are highly environmental in
5. Which psychological perspective? Students can often solidify their understanding of the different
perspectives when they compare and contrast them for a single example. Choose an event to which
students can relate. Examples might include an honors student cheating on a test s/he was too tired to
study for or an Olympic athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs despite the possibility that s/he will
be subjected to random testing. Discuss the motivations of those involved. Why did they do it? Why
would they risk getting caught? Apply each of the psychological perspectives to the events and describe
how each perspective (biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, learning, humanistic, and cognitive) would
explain the event.
6. Reflective listening. Instruct students to pair up in dyads. One person is to select a concern or
problem he or she feels comfortable sharing. Then, the person is to share this problem with his or her
partner for about five minutes or so. The partner is to listen empathetically; giving only nonjudgmental
feedback, without adding to or analyzing what is being expressed. Then, have the partners switch roles.
After the dyads have completed their role-playing, ask the participants how it feels to be listened to. How
does active or reflective listening differ from everyday conversation? It has been said that social
conversation is often a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is declared the
listener; however, this ―listener‖ is often a reluctant, frustrated listener, who doesn’t listen at all, but
merely awaits his or her turn to speak.
7. Considering the role of culture in therapy and mental health. There are dozens of ways in which
the manifestation of mental illness and the therapeutic process are influenced by culture and ethnicity.
Students should be able to conceptualize many different ways in which this occurs. A small number of
ways in which culture and ethnicity influence these factors include—how symptoms of distress manifest
(e.g., physical symptoms versus psychological), who can be a ―helping professional‖ (e.g., folk-healer or
community elder versus psychologist), treatment approaches that are most helpful (community or churchbased intervention versus one-on-one talk therapy), cross-cultural ―tracking errors‖ between the therapist
and client, social norms regarding acceptable behaviors with authority figures (e.g., if it is permissible for
a client to make eye contact with a professional), and ways in which clients will accept influence from a
therapist (e.g., confrontation, advice-giving, or communicating through themes within stories).
8. Design an outcome study. Break the class into groups and give them the task of designing a research
study to evaluate a psychotherapy technique. They are to consider therapist and technique variables,
control groups, measures of outcome, and follow-ups. Have groups report their designs, and use this to
discuss some of the complexities of research the text authors describe.
9. Self-help resources. Not everyone goes to a therapist for help. Millions of Americans turn to selfhelp sections in their libraries and bookstores. Have students collect examples of various self-help
manuals, guides, and books. Ask them to critically evaluate these with regard to evidence presented for
10. Which treatment? Write several short case-studies and present them to the class. Then ask students
to pick from the various perspectives which treatment they would try first. You may want to make this a
group activity—break into groups of four to six and assign each group a case for class presentation.
Video–Differences Between Collectivistic and Individualistic Cultures (3:28)
This video compares individualistic cultures, such as the United States, that emphasize the role of the individual
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Video available on MyPsychLab.com
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Viewers learn about the different parts of neurons, how they communicate with each other, and how they function in
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