Five Key Theories In Psychology To Know When Choosing A Therapist
Counseling may be a valuable treatment option if you're experiencing mental health challenges. There are many different approaches to therapy, and some therapeutic models may work better for you than others. In particular, five common, key methodologies used in therapy might help you determine which method you prefer.
Five Key Psychological Theories In Counseling
Mental health clinicians may use various methods to treat their clients. They may use algorithm psychology, insight therapy, or behavioral therapy. Some clinicians, called integrative or holistic therapists, may use multiple therapeutic techniques depending on the individual client.
Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of your therapist's chosen theoretical framework may help determine which treatment method is best for you.
Behaviorist theory centers around the idea that all human behavior is a reaction to the environment. According to behaviorist theory, each person begins as a blank slate, and their observable behaviors are learned through interactions with the world, not genetics.
This theory was developed in part based on research by physiologist Ivan Pavlov on classical conditioning. Classical conditioning theory posits that humans develop unconscious responses to repeated stimuli. In Pavlov's famous experiment, he demonstrated classical conditioning by ringing a bell before feeding dogs.
Over time, the dogs would begin to salivate at the sound of the bell, even when food was not presented to them. This experiment indicates that individuals may become "trained" to demonstrate specific behavior in particular situations.
Another researcher, BF Skinner, developed a similar theory in the 1930s called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning suggests that all actions receive reinforcement in the form of rewards or discouragement in the form of punishment. Over time, individuals make associations between behavior and consequences and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Both classical conditioning and operant conditioning theories are primary components of behaviorist theory.
Types Of Behaviorist Theory Methods
Since behaviorist theory often involves how we learn and reinforce our unconscious actions, people seeking to change their behaviors may benefit from a behaviorist therapist. Two of the most common behaviorist therapy approaches are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
In CBT, people learn to reframe their negative thoughts into positive thoughts. CBT may be an effective treatment method for people with anxiety, depression, addiction, or marital stress.
DBT often involves learning to accept and change your current behavioral patterns. DBT may be an effective treatment for those living with a personality disorder, suicidal ideation, or persistent self-harm tendencies and individuals living with anxiety, depression, or addiction.
If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
Criticisms Of Behaviorist Theory
Some critics may assert that behaviorist theory is too simplistic. Behaviorist theory only addresses an individual's outward behaviors, not any internal issues.
Additionally, behaviorist therapy may harm those experiencing trauma in some cases. It can infer that trauma can be fixed with lifestyle changes or the individual may be hooked on the Just World Hypothesis belief that the symptoms they're facing are their fault. However, trauma often involves a physical and mental component.
The psychodynamic theory of psychology suggests that our subconscious rules our behaviors. Based on the research of Sigmund Freud, psychodynamic theory indicates that each human's subconscious mind is made up of three competing factions: the id, the ego, and the superego.
The id is said to be the most primitive part of the subconscious. It may demand physical satisfaction at all times, like a child. The ego is the decision-making facet of the subconscious. It is ruled in part by your self-perception. The superego is developed by the society in which you are raised. The superego may help individuals define morals and personal values.
Benefits Of Psychodynamic Therapy
Psychodynamic therapy, sometimes called talk therapy, may provide long-term positive effects for people with mental health disorders, including depression, panic disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders. The positive effects of psychodynamic therapy may continue to grow over time.
Criticisms Of Psychodynamic Theory
Critics of psychodynamic theory indicate that it ignores other primary decision-making factors, like conscious thought, and inherited traits, like genetic mental health disorders. Additionally, the psychodynamic theory may diminish the role of free will by focusing on the subconscious mind.
Humanistic theory, or person-centered theory, indicates that each person is unique and capable of change. In this theory, individuals are responsible for their own happiness and social functioning.
Humanistic theory is often focused more on an individual's current emotions than on past experiences that may be influencing their behavior and feelings. In humanistic therapy, the client guides the therapy session while taking responsibility for their actions and emotions.
Benefits Of Humanistic Theory
Humanistic therapy may work well for people with depression, panic disorders, schizophrenia, addiction, marital or relationship problems, and anxiety. It may also empower individuals experiencing low self-worth or lack of purpose to take control of their lives.
Criticisms Of Humanistic Theory
Critics of this theory may suggest that the humanistic approach is too idealistic or naive. Critics may also indicate that by not examining the past, humanistic theory enables destructive behavioral patterns.
The cognitive theory asserts that human behaviors are influenced by how we think. The cognitive theory became popular in the 1970s when computers began to be developed. The cognitive theory examines how humans process and categorize information and how that information may impact behavior.
Benefits Of Cognitive Theory
CBT, which was described above in the behaviorist theory discussion, is a blend between behaviorist theory and cognitive theory. Like CBT, cognitive therapy may work well for addiction, depression, and anxiety.
Criticisms Of Cognitive Theory
The primary criticism of the cognitive theory is that it is too narrow. Because cognitive theory only focuses on individuals' internal processes, it may fail to account for social or genetic factors that could influence behavior. Additionally, studies on cognitive theory are limited by what can be observed and measured.
The biological theory suggests that genes, DNA, and hereditary factors significantly influence human behavior. In the biological theory, it's assumed that most behaviors are inherited and shaped by a biological adaptation to one's external environment. The biological theory was developed based on research done by biologist and scientist Charles Darwin. The evolution theory of Charles Darwin became the basis of evolutionary psychologists in explaining the relationship between humans and their environment.
Advancements strengthen the biological theory in the field of neurology, which shows that the structure of the human brain is related to subsequent behavior. It may also posit that mental health diagnoses are due to a biological or hereditary factor.
Benefits Of Biological Theory
The biological theory can be used to investigate biological conditions like schizophrenia and individual characteristics with a biological basis, like IQ, gender roles, and aggression.
Criticisms Of Biological Theory
Critics of biological theory may take issue with the idea that most human behaviors are inherited. Because biological theory does not recognize cognitive decision-making, like free will or meditative thought, some critics find its application limited.
Which Counseling Theory Is Best For Me?
If you have questions about the methodology used by your mental healthcare provider, discuss them with your therapist.
Finding A Counselor
Counseling can be beneficial for those looking to find a psychological approach that benefits them. Many therapists have practiced CBT in the past. However, other types of therapies are often available, from EMDR to grief therapy and art therapy to person-centered therapy. Additionally, not all of the existing psychological approaches are listed above, like social comparison theory and other theories. If you have questions about a psychological school of thought, ask your provider upon meeting.
In the modern age, many individuals now also appreciate online counseling. If you're learning about therapeutic methods, you may wonder about the best way to get treatment. Online therapy makes finding a counselor more available by allowing you to try several different providers, if necessary, without switching therapy offices or traveling long distances.
Research from a University of Zurich study shows that online therapy is a more effective long-term treatment for depression than in-person counseling. Their research shows that three months post-treatment, 57% of those who had utilized online therapy experienced a continued decline in depression symptoms compared to just 42% of those who had been treated with in-person therapy.
Because all providers are available online, you may be able to find a therapist specializing in your symptoms from the comfort of your home. Consider utilizing a platform such as BetterHelp to connect with a counselor that works for you.
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“Tara is an authentic, warm and caring counsellor who listens so very well and is very attuned. She is genuine, educated and experienced. She is easy to talk to and creates a safe space to be yourself and feel valued and respected. Her voice is very calming and she has helped me ground at times of distress and emotional upheaval with DBT techniques and other tools. I have waited several months to "evaluate" her because I don't personally trust face value too quickly, but what you see is what you get and Tara has earned my trust. I'm lucky to have found her.”
Frequently Asked Questions
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