Treatment of Abnormal Behavior for AP Psychology (page 4)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Other Biological Treatments

Some patients do not respond well to antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy. Electroconvulsive shock treatment (ECT) is used as a last resort to treat severely depressed patients. ECT is administered humanely, with the patient under anesthetic and given a muscle relaxant to prevent injury from convulsions. Then the patient receives a momentary electric shock. Typically, the procedure is repeated about six times over 2 weeks. Just how the procedure works is still unknown, but many depressed, suicidal patients are restored to healthy functioning. The patient usually experiences some (often temporary) memory loss immediately following the procedure, but no apparent brain damage. A promising new painless treatment for severe depression is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in which repeated pulses surge through a magnetic coil positioned above the right eyebrow of the patient. The treatment is administered daily for a few weeks. The treatment may work by stimulating the depressed patient's left frontal lobe.

Psychosurgery, or the removal of brain tissue, can also be used to treat certain organic problems that lead to abnormal behavior. Psychosurgery is a treatment of last resort because its effects are irreversible. From about 1935 to 1955, the prefrontal lobotomy, which cut the main neural tracts connecting lower brain regions to the frontal lobes, was performed on thousands of schizophrenic patients, especially violent ones, to reduce the intensity of their emotional responses. Unfortunately, following the lobotomies, many patients were left as emotional zombies, with extensive brain damage. Today psychosurgery is very limited. One successful procedure used for severe epilepsy is the corpus callosum transection, or split brain surgery, in which only the corpus callosum between the left and right cerebral hemispheres is cut.

Modes of Therapy

So far we have discussed therapies that are largely individual—in other words, one-on-one. Another way that psychological services can be delivered is in groups.

Group Therapy

The same types of therapies used in individual counseling can be used with a group of patients. Typically, group therapy is more helpful than individual counseling in enabling the client to discover that others have similar problems. Individuals receive information about their problems from either the therapist or other group members. Financially, group therapy is also cheaper for clients who might otherwise not be able to afford individual counseling. Less verbal clients and those more resistant in individual settings may find it easier to open up about their problems in a group setting. Clients get helpful feedback from peers that may allow them to gain better insight into their own particular situations.

Couples and Family Therapy

This is especially true in family and marital counseling sessions. Trained professionals can direct spouses and family members to openly discuss their individual perspectives on the same issue. In the neutral setting of the therapist's office, individuals can come to better understand others' feelings and beliefs and how their behavior affects others. The therapy can serve as a training ground to practice better communication skills and bring about improved relationships.

Self-Help Groups

Self-help groups are yet another way that individuals who share the same problem may get assistance. One of the best-known examples is Alcoholics Anonymous. Recovering alcoholics get peer support and have an outlet to share their individual experiences. It should be noted, however, that trained psychotherapists do not conduct these sessions. The responsibility for leading the group is up to the group members themselves. Meetings can be attended anywhere in the United States. New members can receive a sponsor, someone who has been in recovery for a longer period of time, to call in emergency situations. A spiritual aspect underlies Alcohol Anonymous's Twelve-Step Program as well.

Community and Preventive Approaches

With deinstitutionalization came the problem of how to help patients released from mental hospitals and an ever-growing number of other people in need of aid in local communities. The vast increase in the homeless population, many of whom have symptoms of schizophrenia, has posed a problem that has not been solved. Yet these problems have led to the rise of a relatively new subfield of psychology, community psychology. Community psychologists aim to promote psychosocial change to prevent psychological disorders as well as to treat people with psychopathologies in their local communities.

As part of the community mental health movement of the 1960s, local clinics cropped up. With continued funding problems, these local clinics try to provide both treatment and preventive services. One of their major goals is to treat people with psychological problems to prevent them from getting worse and help them recover. They address unemployment, poverty, overcrowding, and other stressful social problems that can affect mental health. Other initiatives include prenatal and follow-up well-baby care, dissemination of information on sexually transmitted diseases, suicide prevention programs, child abuse prevention, and training of paraprofessionals to help community members cope with emergency situations. They hold free screenings for depression and anxiety, sponsor suicide hotlines, and provide outreach programs for at-risk children and teens.

Review questions for this study guide can be found at:

Treatment of Abnormal Behavior Review Questions for AP Psychology

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