Thearapy can be defined as a set of procedures designed to improve the psychological problems of individuals. Guided by one or more theories of personality, a therapist attempts to help a person (or sometimes a group of people) change aspects of his or her life, usually because the person is experiencing one of the problems or disorders. Change, then, is the key element in therapy.
The change may be cognitive, behavioral, or emotiontal-that is, therapy may change the way a person thinks, behaves, or feels-or it may change all three. As we have seen there are many theories about the probable causes of abbnormal behavior. And, as you might expect, there is a correspondingly vast choice of therapies, dependent on the presumed cause of the disorder being treated. At least one broad distinction is between psychotherapies (talk therapies) and drug therapies. The talk therapies characteristically involve a client “talking through” problems with a therapist, seeking to gain insight into their causes. Generally, these therapies are guided by psychoanalytic, learning and cognitive, or humanisitc and existential thinking. Drug therapy involves prescribing medications that affect mood, thought, or behavior by altering underlying physiological states.
More recently, other techniques have emerged. A therapist who uses principles of learning theory may set up mechanisms to selectively reinforce or discourage certain behaviors of the client. Another may have clients reenact old scenes of conflict in their lives or realistically role-play new social skills modeled by other people. Recently, too, many therapists have become more eclectic, drawing on several theories and using a mix of therapeutic techniques to deal with clients’ problems.
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