The term disaffectation was coined by noted French psychoanalyst Joyce McDougall as a strictly psychoanalytic term for alexithymia, a neurological condition characterised by severe lack of emotional awareness.
McDougall felt that alexithymia had become too strongly classified as a neuroanatomical defect and concretised as an intractable illness leaving little room for a purely psychoanalytic explanation for this phenomenon.
In coining the term McDougall hoped to indicate the behaviour of people who had experienced overwhelming emotion that threatened to attack their sense of integrity and identity. Such individuals, unable to repress the ideas linked to emotional pain and equally unable to project these feelings delusively onto representations of other people, simply ejected them from consciousness by “pulverizing all trace of feeling, so that an experience which has caused emotional flooding is not recognized as such and therefore cannot be contemplated”. They were not suffering from an inability to experience or express emotion, but from “an inability to contain and reflect over an excess of affective experience.”
‘Disaffectation’ conveys a deliberate double meaning. The Latin prefix dis-, indicates separation or loss and suggests, metaphorically, that certain people are psychologically separated from their emotions and may have “lost” the capacity to be in touch with interior psychic reality. Also included in this prefix is the secondary meaning from the Greek dys- with its implication of illness.
According to Professor of Psychiatry of the University of Toronto, Graeme Taylor, this psychoanalytic conceptualisation departs from older, less applicable theories which emphasized the role of unconscious neurotic conflicts, and instead facilitates a psychoanalytic model of physical illness and disease based on the operation of primitive pre-neurotic pathology that has failed to achieve psychic representation. Henry Krystal Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan State University agreed, adding that it is useful to separate the consideration of psychotherapy for the “disaffected” individual from that of the classical psychosomatic neuroses. To Krystal this consideration is important because “since these patients may develop serious, even occasionally fatal exacerbations of illness during psychotherapy, treating them with psychotherapy for psychosomatic illness is not indicated”. This distinction has allowed the field of psychoanalysis to contribute constructively to the field of psychosomatic medicine.
Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS) is designated by the code 311 in the DSM-IV for depressive disorders that are impairing but do not fit any of the officially specified diagnoses. According to the DSM-IV, DD-NOS encompasses “any depressive disorder that does not meet the criteria for a specific disorder.” In the DSM-5, it is called unspecified depressive disorder.
Examples of disorders in this category include those sometimes described as minor depressive disorder and recurrent brief depression.
“Depression” refers to a spectrum of disturbances in mood that vary from mild to severe and from short periods to constant illness. DD-NOS is diagnosed if a patients symptoms fail to meet the criteria more common depressive disorders such as major depressive disorder or dysthymia. Although DD-NOS shares similar symptoms to dysthymia, dysthymia is classified by a period of at least 2 years of constantly recurring depressed mood, where as DD-NOS is classified by much shorter periods of depressed moods.
For most people who suffer the condition, their life will be significantly affected. DD-NOS can make many aspects of a person’s daily life difficult to manage, inhibiting their ability to enjoy the things that used to make them happy. Sufferers of the disorder tend to isolate themselves from their friends and families, lose interest in some activities, and experience behavioural changes and sleeping disorders. Some sufferers also experience suicidal tendencies or suicide attempts. In addition to having these symptoms, a diagnosis of DD-NOS will only be made if the symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. For the diagnosis to be accurate, a psychiatrist is required to spend extensive time with the patient.
Symptoms of the disorder may arise due to several reasons. These include:
Distress due to medical conditions.
Environmental effects and situations.
However, the effects of drugs or medication or bereavement are not classified under the diagnosis.
A person will not be diagnosed with the condition if they have or have had any of the following: a major depressive episode, manic episode, mixed episode or hypomanic episode.
A diagnosis of the disorder will look like: “Depressive Disorder NOS 311”.
Accurately assessing for a specific Depressive Disorder diagnosis requires an expenditure of time that is deemed unreasonable for most primary care physicians. For this reason, physicians often use this code as a proxy for a more thorough diagnosis. There is concern that this may lead to a “wastebasket” mindset for certain disorders. In addition reimbursement through Medicare may be lower for certain non specific diagnosis.
It is possible for this disorder to progress over time. A patient suffering from the disorder can improve the condition with treatments. There are several types of therapies that may improve the condition, but depending on a patient’s experience of the disorder or the cause of the disorder, treatments will vary.
Psychotherapy including behaviour therapy, Gestalt therapy, Adlerian therapy, psychoanalytic therapy and existential therapy.
Transference focused psychotherapy (TFP) is a highly structured, twice-weekly modified psychodynamic treatment based on Otto F. Kernberg’s object relations model of borderline personality disorder.
It views the individual with borderline personality organisation (BPO) as holding unreconciled and contradictory internalised representations of self and significant others that are affectively charged. The defence against these contradictory internalised object relations leads to disturbed relationships with others and with self. The distorted perceptions of self, others, and associated affects are the focus of treatment as they emerge in the relationship with the therapist (transference). The treatment focuses on the integration of split off parts of self and object representations, and the consistent interpretation of these distorted perceptions is considered the mechanism of change.
TFP has been validated as an efficacious treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD), though too few studies have been conducted to allow firm conclusions about its value. TFP is one of a number of treatments that may be useful in the treatment of BPD; however, in a study which compared TFP, dialectical behaviour therapy, and modified psychodynamic supportive psychotherapy, only TFP was shown to change how patients think about themselves in relationships.
Borderline Personality Disorder
TFP is a treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Patients with BPD are often characterised by intense affects, stormy relationships, and impulsive behaviours. Due to their high reactivity to environmental stimuli, patients with BPD often experience dramatic and short-lived shifts in their mood, alternating between experiences of euphoria, depression, anxiety, and nervousness. Patients with BPD often experience intolerable feelings of emptiness that they attempt to fill with impulsive and self-damaging behaviours, such as substance abuse, risky sexual behaviour, uncontrolled spending, or binge eating. Further, patients with BPD often exhibit recurrent suicidal behaviours, gestures, or threats. Under intense stress patients with BPD may exhibit transient dissociative or paranoid symptoms.
Theoretical Model of Borderline Personality
According to an object relations model, in normal psychological development mental templates of oneself in relation to others, or object representations, become increasingly more differentiated and integrated. The infant’s experience, initially organised around moments of pain (“I am uncomfortable and in need of someone to care for me”) and pleasure (“I am now being soothed by someone and feel loved”), become increasingly integrated and differentiated mental templates of oneself in relation to others. These increasingly mature representations allow for the realistic blending of good and bad, such that positive and negative qualities can be integrated into a complex, multifaceted representation of an individual (“Although she is not caring for me at this moment, I know she loves me and will do so in the future”). Such integrated representations allow for the tolerance of ambivalence, difference, and contradiction in oneself and others.
For Kernberg the degree of differentiation and integration of these representations of self and other, along with their affective valence, constitutes personality organisation. In a normal personality organisation the individual has an integrated model of self and others, allowing for stability and consistency within one’s identity and in the perception of others, as well as a capacity for becoming intimate with others while maintaining one’s sense of self. For example, such an individual would be able to tolerate hateful feelings in the context of a loving relationship without internal conflict or a sense of discontinuity in the perception of the other. In contrast, in Borderline Personality Organisation (BPO), the lack of integration in representations of self and other leads to the use of primitive defence mechanisms (e.g. splitting, projective identification, dissociation), identity diffusion (inconsistent view of self and others), and unstable reality testing (inconsistent differentiation between internal and external experience). Under conditions of high stress, borderline patients may fail to appreciate the “whole” of the situation and interpret events in catastrophic and intensely personal ways. They fail to discriminate the intentions and motivations of the other and thus, perceive only threat or rejection. Thus thoughts and feelings about self and others are split into dichotomous experiences of good or bad, black or white, all or nothing.
The major goals of TFP are to reduce suicidality and self-injurious behaviours, and to facilitate better behavioural control, increased affect regulation, more gratifying relationships, and the ability to pursue life goals. This is believed to be accomplished through the development of integrated representations of self and others, the modification of primitive defensive operations, and the resolution of identity diffusion that perpetuate the fragmentation of the patient’s internal representational world.
The treatment begins with the development of the treatment contract, which consists of general guidelines that apply for all clients and of specific items developed from problem areas of the individual client that could interfere with the therapy progress. The contract also contains therapist responsibilities. The client and the therapist must agree to the content of the treatment contract before the therapy can proceed.
TFP consists of the following three steps:
Diagnostic description of a particular internalised object relation in the transference.
Diagnostic elaboration of the corresponding self and object representation in the transference, and of their enactment in the transference/countertransference.
Integration of the split-off self representations, leading to an integrated sense of self and others which resolves identity diffusion.
During the first year of treatment, TFP focuses on a hierarchy of issues:
Containment of suicidal and self-destructive behaviours.
Various ways of destroying the treatments.
Identification and recapitulation of dominant object relational patterns (from unintegrated and undifferentiated affects and representations of self and others to a more coherent whole).
In this treatment, the analysis of the transference is the primary vehicle for the transformation of primitive (e.g. split, polarised) to advanced (e.g. complex, differentiated and integrated) object relations. Thus, in contrast to therapies that focus on the short-term treatment of symptoms, TFP has the ambitious goal of not just changing symptoms, but changing the personality organisation, which is the context of the symptoms. To do this, the client’s affectively charged internal representations of previous relationships are consistently interpreted as the therapist becomes aware of them in the therapeutic relationship, that is, the transference. Techniques of clarification, confrontation, and interpretation are used within the evolving transference relationship between the patient and the therapist.
In the psychotherapeutic relationship, self and object representations are activated in the transference. In the course of the therapy, projection and identification are operating, i.e. devalued self-representations are projected onto the therapist whilst the client identifies with a critical object representation. These processes are usually connected to affective experiences such as anger or fear.
The information that emerges within the transference provides direct access to the individual’s internal world for two reasons. First, it is observable by both therapist and patient simultaneously so that inconsistent perceptions of the shared reality can be discussed immediately. Second, the perceptions of shared reality are accompanied by affect whereas the discussion of historical material can have an intellectualised quality and be thus less informative.
TFP emphasizes the role of interpretation within psychotherapy sessions. As the split-off representations of self and other get played out in the course of the treatment, the therapist helps the patient to understand the reasons (the fears or the anxieties) that support the continued separation of these fragmented senses of self and other. This understanding is accompanied by the experience of strong affects within the therapeutic relationship. The integration of the split and polarized concepts of self and others leads to a more complex, differentiated, and realistic sense of self and others that allows for better modulation of affects and in turn clearer thinking. Therefore, as split-off representations become integrated, patients tend to experience an increased coherence of identity, relationships that are balanced and constant over time and therefore not at risk of being overwhelmed by aggressive affect, a greater capacity for intimacy, a reduction in self-destructive behaviours, and general improvement in functioning.
Mechanisms of Change
In TFP, hypothesised mechanisms of change derive from Kernberg’s developmentally based theory of Borderline Personality Organisation, conceptualised in terms of unintegrated and undifferentiated affects and representations of self and other. Partial representations of self and other are paired and linked by an affect in mental units called object relation dyads. These dyads are elements of psychological structure. In borderline pathology, the lack of integration of the internal object relations dyads corresponds to a ‘split’ psychological structure in which totally negative representations are split off/segregated from idealised positive representations of self and other (seeing people as all good or all bad). The putative global mechanism of change in patients treated with TFP is the integration of these polarised affect states and representations of self and other into a more coherent whole.
In early research studying the efficacy of a year-long TFP, suicide attempts were significantly reduced during treatment. Additionally, the physical condition of the patients was significantly improved. When the researchers compared the treatment year to the year prior, it was found that there was a significant reduction in psychiatric hospitalisations and days spent as inpatients in psychiatric hospitals. The dropout rate for the 1-year study was 19.1%, which the authors state as comparable to dropout rates in previous studies assessing the treatment of borderline individuals, including DBT research.
TFP vs. Treatment-As-Usual (TAU)
Results indicated that the TFP group experienced significant decreases in ER visits and hospitalisations during treatment year, as well as significant increases in global functioning when compared to TAU.
TFP vs. Treatment by Community Experts
A randomised clinical trial compared the outcomes of TFP or treatment by community experts for 104 borderline patients. The dropout rate was significantly higher in the community psychotherapy condition; however, the dropout rate for TFP was 38.5%, which the authors acknowledge as somewhat higher than dropout rates associated with dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and schema-focused therapy (SFT). The TFP group experienced significant improvement in personality organisation, psychosocial functioning, and number of suicide attempts. In this study neither group was associated with a significant change in self-harming behaviours.
TFP vs. DBT vs. Supportive Treatment
Prior to treatment and at four-month intervals during treatment, patients were assessed in the following domains: suicidal behaviour, aggression, impulsivity, anxiety, depression, and social adjustment. Results indicate that patients in all three conditions showed improvement in multiple domains at the one-year mark. Only DBT and TFP were significantly associated with improvement in suicidal behaviours; however, TFP outperformed DBT in anger and impulsivity improvement. Overall, participation in TFP predicted significant improvement in 10 of the 12 variables across the 6 domains, DBT in 5 of 12, and ST in 6 of the 12 variables.
TFP vs. Schema Focused Therapy
Significant improvements were found in both treatment groups on DSM-IV BPD criteria and on all four of the study’s outcome measures (borderline psychopathology, general psychopathology, quality of life, and TFP/SFT personality concepts) after 1-, 2-, and 3-years. Schema focused therapy (SFT, or schema therapy as it is now commonly known) was associated with a significantly higher retention rate. After three years of treatment, schema therapy patients showed greater increases in quality of life, and significantly more schema therapy patients recovered or showed clinical improvement on the BPD Severity Index, fourth version. However, the TFP cell contained more suicidal patients and showed less adherence casting doubt on a direct comparison between treatments. The schema therapy group improved significantly more than the TFP group with respect to relationships, impulsivity, and parasuicidal/suicidal behaviour although many of the alliance ratings were made after dropout. It was concluded that schema therapy was significantly more effective than TFP on all outcome measures assessed during the study. A follow-up of this study concluded that both clients and therapists rated therapeutic alliance higher in schema therapy than in TFP.
Child and adolescent psychiatry (or paediatric psychiatry) is a branch of psychiatry that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders in children, adolescents, and their families.
It investigates the biopsychosocial factors that influence the development and course of psychiatric disorders and treatment responses to various interventions. Child and adolescent psychiatrists primarily use psychotherapy and/or medication to treat mental disorders in the paediatric population.
When psychiatrists and paediatricians first began to recognise and discuss childhood psychiatric disorders in the 19th century, they were largely influenced by literary works of the Victorian era. Authors like the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, and Charles Dickens, introduced new ways of thinking about the child mind and the potential influence early childhood experiences could have on child development and the subsequent adult mind. When the Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology, the first psychiatric journal in English, was published in 1848, child psychiatry didn’t exist as its own field yet. However, some of the earliest works on the possibility of nervous disorders and “insanity” in children were published in the Journal and several medical writers directly referenced works such as Jane Eyre (1847), Wuthering Heights (1847), Dombey and Son (1848), and David Copperfield (1850), to illustrate this new conceptualisation of the child mind. Until that time, it was generally accepted that children were free from nervous disorders and the “passions” that affected the adult mind.
As early as 1899, the term “child psychiatry” (in French) was used as a subtitle in Manheimer’s monograph Les Troubles Mentaux de l’Enfance. However, the Swiss psychiatrist Moritz Tramer (1882-1963) was probably the first to define the parameters of child psychiatry in terms of diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis within the discipline of medicine, in 1933. In 1934, Tramer founded the Zeitschrift für Kinderpsychiatrie (Journal of Child Psychiatry), which later became Acta Paedopsychiatria. The first academic child psychiatry department in the world was founded in 1930 by Leo Kanner (1894-1981), an Austrian émigré and medical graduate of the University of Berlin, under the direction of Adolf Meyer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Kanner was the very first physician to be identified as a child psychiatrist in the US and his textbook, Child Psychiatry (1935), is credited with introducing both the specialty and the term to the anglophone academic community. In 1936, Kanner established the first formal elective course in child psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1944 he provided the first clinical description of early infantile autism, otherwise known as Kanner Syndrome.
Maria Montessori together with It:Giuseppe Ferruccio Montesano and Clodomiro Bonfigli, two distinguished child psychiatrists, created in 1901 in Italy the “Lega Nazionale per la Protezione del Fanciullo” (National League for the Protection of Children). She gradually developed her own pedagogic method, initially based on the “intuition that the question of the ‘mentally deficient’ was more pedagogic than medical”. In 1909, Jane Addams and her female colleagues established the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute (JPI) in Chicago, later renamed as the Institute for Juvenile Research (IJR), the world’s first child guidance clinic. Neurologist William Healy, M.D., its first director, was charged with not only studying the delinquent’s biological aspects of brain functioning and IQ, but also the delinquent’s social factors, attitudes, and motivations, thus it was the birthplace of American child psychiatry.
From its establishment in February 1923, the Maudsley Hospital, a South London-based postgraduate teaching and research psychiatric hospital, contained a small children’s department. Similar overall early developments took place in many other countries during the late 1920s and 1930s. In the United States, child and adolescent psychiatry was established as a recognised medical speciality in 1953 with the founding of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, but was not established as a legitimate, board-certifiable medical speciality until 1959.
The use of medication in the treatment of children also began in the 1930s, when Charles Bradley opened a neuropsychiatric unit and was the first to use amphetamine for brain-damaged and hyperactive children. But it was not until the 1960s that the first NIH grant to study paediatric psychopharmacology was awarded. It went to one of Kanner’s students, Leon Eisenberg, the second director of the division.
The discipline has relatively flourished since the 1980s, in large part, because of contributions made in the 1970s, even if the outcomes for patients have been disappointing at times. It was a decade during which child psychiatry witnessed a major evolution as a result of the work carried out by, Eva Frommer, Douglas Haldane, Michael Rutter, Robin Skynner and Sula Wolff, among others. The first comprehensive population survey of 9- to 11-year-olds, carried out in London and the Isle of Wight, which appeared in 1970, addressed questions that have continued to be of importance for child psychiatry; for example, rates of psychiatric disorders, the role of intellectual development and physical impairment, and specific concern for potential social influences on children’s adjustment. This work was influential, especially since the investigators demonstrated specific continuities of psychopathology over time, and the influence of social and contextual factors in children’s mental health, in their subsequent re-evaluation of the original cohort of children. These studies described the prevalence of ADHD (relatively low as compared to the US), identified the onset and prevalence of depression in mid-adolescence and the frequent co-morbidity with conduct disorder, and explored the relationship between various mental disorders and scholastic achievement.
It was paralleled similarly by work on the epidemiology of autism that was to enormously increase the number of children diagnosed with autism in future years. Although attention had been given in the 1960s and ’70s to the classification of childhood psychiatric disorders, and some issues had then been delineated, such as the distinction between neurotic and conduct disorders, the nomenclature did not parallel the growing clinical knowledge. It was claimed that this situation was altered in the late 1970s with the development of the DSM-III system of classification, although research has shown that this system of classification has problems of validity and reliability. Since then, the DSM-IV and DSM-IVR have altered some of the parsing of psychiatric disorders into “childhood” and “adult” disorders, on the basis that while many psychiatric disorders are not diagnosed until adulthood, they may present in childhood or adolescence (DSM-IV). The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM is now on its fifth edition (DSM-5).
People in the field are sometimes referred to as “neurodevelopmentalists”. As of 2005 there was debate in the field as to whether “neurodevelopmentalist” should be made a new speciality.
In terms of patient outcomes, there is evidence that, in the United Kingdom at least on the 70th anniversary of the NHS, mental health remains a medical “Cinderella” (low priority) and the more so Child and Adolescent Health services which have been through repeated reorganisations and underinvestment all of which leads to disruption and loss of adequate provision.
“Modern neuroscience, genetics, epigenetics, and public health research has presented the tantalizing possibility that it can now be said with relative certainty that much (certainly not all) is understood about why some children struggle and others soar. Although it is an oversimplification, it can now be suggested that it is possible to understand how environmental factors, both negative and positive, influence the genome or epigenome, which in turn influence the structure and function of the brain and thus human thoughts, actions, and behaviors.”
Classification of Disorders
Not an exhaustive list:
Autism spectrum disorder.
Disorders of attention and behaviour:
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Oppositional defiant disorder.
Major depressive disorder.
Persistent Depressive Disorder.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.
Gender identity disorder:
Gender identity disorder in children.
Disorders are often comorbid. For example, an adolescent can be diagnosed with both major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. The incidence of psychiatric comorbidities during adolescence may vary by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, among other variables.
The psychiatric assessment of a child or adolescent starts with obtaining a psychiatric history by interviewing the young person and their parents or caregivers. The assessment includes a detailed exploration of the current concerns about the child’s emotional or behavioural problems, the child’s physical health and development, history of parental care (including possible abuse and neglect), family relationships and history of parental mental illness. It is regarded as desirable to obtain information from multiple sources (for example both parents, or a parent and a grandparent) as informants may give widely differing accounts of the child’s problems. Collateral information is usually obtained from the child’s school with regards to academic performance, peer relationships, and behaviour in the school environment.
Psychiatric assessment always includes a mental state examination of the child or adolescent which consists of a careful behavioural observation and a first-hand account of the young person’s subjective experiences. The assessment also includes an observation of the interactions within the family, especially the interactions between the child and his/her parents.
The assessment may be supplemented by the use of behaviour or symptom rating scales such as the Achenbach Child Behaviour Checklist or CBCL, the Behavioural Assessment System for Children or BASC, Connors Rating Scales (used for diagnosis of ADHD), Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory or MACI, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire or SDQ. These instruments bring a degree of objectivity and consistency to the clinical assessment. More specialised psychometric testing may be carried out by a psychologist, for example using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, to detect intellectual impairment or other cognitive problems which may be contributing to the child’s difficulties.
Diagnosis and Formulation
The child and adolescent psychiatrist makes a diagnosis based on the pattern of behaviour and emotional symptoms, using a standardized set of diagnostic criteria such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). While the DSM system is widely used, it may not adequately take into account social, cultural and contextual factors and it has been suggested that an individualized clinical formulation may be more useful. A case formulation is standard practice for child and adolescent psychiatrists and can be defined as a process of integrating and summarising all the relevant factors implicated in the development of the patient’s problem, including biological, psychological, social and cultural perspectives (the “biopsychosocial model”). The applicability of DSM diagnoses have also been questioned with regard to the assessment of very young children: it is argued that very young children are developing too rapidly to be adequately described by a fixed diagnosis, and furthermore that a diagnosis unhelpfully locates the problem within the child when the parent-child relationship is a more appropriate focus of assessment.
The child and adolescent psychiatrist then designs a treatment plan which considers all the components and discusses these recommendations with the child or adolescent and family.
Treatment will usually involve one or more of the following elements: behaviour therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), problem-solving therapies, psychodynamic therapy, parent training programmes, family therapy, and/or the use of medication. The intervention can also include consultation with paediatricians, primary care physicians or professionals from schools, juvenile courts, social agencies or other community organisations.
In a review of existing meta-analyses and disorders on the four most frequent childhood and adolescent psychiatric disorders (anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD, conduct disorder), only for ADHD was the use of medication (stimulants) considered to be the most efficacious treatment option available. For the remaining three disorders, psychotherapy is recommended as the most effective treatment of choice. A combination of psychological and pharmacological treatments is an important option in ADHD and depressive disorders. Treatments for ADHD and anxiety disorders produce higher effect-sizes than do interventions for depressive and conduct disorders.
In the United States, Child and adolescent psychiatric training requires 4 years of medical school, at least 4 years of approved residency training in medicine, neurology, and general psychiatry with adults, and 2 years of additional specialised training in psychiatric work with children, adolescents, and their families in an accredited residency in child and adolescent psychiatry. Child and adolescent sub-speciality training is similar in other Western countries (such as the UK, New Zealand, and Australia), in that trainees must generally demonstrate competency in general adult psychiatry prior to commencing sub-speciality training.
Certification and Continuing Education
In the US, having completed the child and adolescent psychiatry residency, the child and adolescent psychiatrist is eligible to take the additional certification examination in the subspecialty of child and adolescent psychiatry from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) or the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry (AOBNP). Although the ABPN and AOBNP examinations are not required for practice, they are a further assurance that the child and adolescent psychiatrist with these certifications can be expected to diagnose and treat all psychiatric conditions in patients of any age competently. Training requirements are listed on the web site of The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Shortage of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists in the United States
The demand for child and adolescent psychiatrists continues to far outstrip the supply worldwide. There is also a severe maldistribution of child and adolescent psychiatrists, especially in rural and poor, urban areas where access is significantly reduced. As of 2016, there are 7991 child and adolescent psychiatrists in the United States. A report by the US Bureau of Health Professions (2000) projected a need by the year 2020 for 12,624 child and adolescent psychiatrists, but a supply of only 8,312. In its 1998 report, the Centre for Mental Health Services estimated that 9-13% of 9- to 17-year-olds had serious emotional disturbances, and 5-9% had extreme functional impairments. In 1999, however, the Surgeon General reported that “there is a dearth of child psychiatrists.” Only 20% of emotionally disturbed children and adolescents received any mental health treatment, a small percentage of which was performed by child and adolescent psychiatrists. Furthermore, the US Bureau of Health Professions projects that the demand for child and adolescent psychiatry services will increase by 100% between 1995 and 2020.
Steady growth in migration of immigrants to higher-income regions and countries has contributed to the growth and interest in cross-cultural psychiatry. Families of immigrants whose child has a psychiatric illness must come to understand the disorder while navigating an unfamiliar health care system.
One criticism against psychiatry is that psychiatric diagnoses lack complete “objectivity,” particularly when compared with diagnoses in other medical specialties. However, for several major psychiatric disorders interrater reliability, which shows the degree to which psychiatrists agree on the diagnosis, is generally similar to those in other medical specialties. In 2013, Allen Frances said that “psychiatric diagnosis still relies exclusively on fallible subjective judgements rather than objective biological tests.”
Traditional deficit and disease models of child psychiatry have been criticised as rooted in the medical model which conceptualises adjustment problems in terms of disease states. It is said by these critics that these normative models explicitly characterise problematic behaviour as representing a disorder within the child or young person and these commentators assert that the role of environmental influences on behaviour has become increasingly neglected, leading to a decrease in the popularity of, for example, family therapy. There are criticisms of the medical model approach from within and without the psychiatric profession: it is said to neglect the role of environmental, family, and cultural influences, to discount the psychological meaning of behaviour and symptoms, to promote a view of the “patient” as dependent and needing to be cured or cared for and therefore undermines a sense of personal responsibility for conduct and behaviour, to promote a normative conception based on adaptation to the norms of society (the ill person must adapt to society), and to be based on the shaky foundations of reliance on a classificatory system that has been shown to have problems of validity and reliability.
Prescription of Psychotropic Medications
Since the late 1990s, use of psychiatric medication has become increasingly common for children and adolescents. In 2004 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the Black Box Warning on antidepressant prescriptions to alert patients of a research link between use of medication and apparent increased risk of suicidal thoughts, hostility, and agitation in paediatric patients. The most common diagnoses for which children receive psychiatric medication are ADHD, ODD, and conduct disorder.
Some research suggests that children and adolescents are sometimes given antipsychotic drugs as a first-line treatment for mental health problems or behavioural issues other than a psychotic disorder. In the United States, the usage of these drugs in young people has greatly increased since 2000, especially among children from low-income families. More research is needed to specifically assess the efficacy and tolerability of antipsychotic medications in paediatric populations. Because of the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular events with long-term antipsychotic use, use in paediatric populations is highly scrutinized and recommended in combination with psychotherapy and effective parent-training interventions.
In 1947, child neuropsychiatrist Lauretta Bender published a study on 98 children aged between four and eleven years old who had been treated in the previous five years with intensive courses of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). These children received ECT daily for a typical course of approximately twenty treatments. This formed part of an experimental trend amongst a cadre of psychiatrists to explore the therapeutic impact of intensive regimes of ECT, which is also known as either regressive ECT or annihilation therapy. In the 1950s Bender abandoned ECT as a therapeutic practice for the treatment of children. In the same decade the results of her published work on the use of ECT in children was discredited after a study showing that the condition of the children so treated had either not improved or deteriorated. Commenting on his experience as part of Bender’s therapeutic program, Ted Chabasinski said that, “It really made a mess of me … I went from being a shy kid who read a lot to a terrified kid who cried all the time.” Following his treatment, he spent ten years as an inmate of Rockland State Hospital, a psychiatric facility now known as the Rockland Psychiatric Centre.
According to Michael First of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Version 5 (DSM-5) working committee the focus of a relational disorder, in contrast to other DSM-IV disorders, “is on the relationship rather than on any one individual in the relationship”.
Relational disorders involve two or more individuals and a disordered “juncture”, whereas typical Axis I psychopathology describes a disorder at the individual level. An additional criterion for a relational disorder is that the disorder cannot be due solely to a problem in one member of the relationship, but requires pathological interaction from each of the individuals involved in the relationship.
For example, if a parent is withdrawn from one child but not another, the dysfunction could be attributed to a relational disorder. In contrast, if a parent is withdrawn from both children, the dysfunction may be more appropriately attributable to a disorder at the individual level.
First states that “relational disorders share many elements in common with other disorders: there are distinctive features for classification; they can cause clinically significant impairment; there are recognizable clinical courses and patterns of comorbidity; they respond to specific treatments; and they can be prevented with early interventions. Specific tasks in a proposed research agenda: develop assessment modules; determine the clinical utility of relational disorders; determine the role of relational disorders in the aetiology and maintenance of individual disorders; and consider aspects of relational disorders that might be modulated by individual disorders.”
The proposed new diagnosis defines a relational disorder as “persistent and painful patterns of feelings, behaviors, and perceptions” among two or more people in an important personal relationship, such a husband and wife, or a parent and children.
According to psychiatrist Darrel Regier, MD, some psychiatrists and other therapists involved in couples and marital counselling have recommended that the new diagnosis be considered for possible incorporation into the DSM IV.
The idea of a psychology of relational disorders is far from new. According to Adam Blatner, MD, some of the early psychoanalysts alluded to it more or less directly, and the history of marital couple therapy began with a few pioneers in 1930s. J.L. Moreno, the inventor of psychodrama and a major pioneer of group psychotherapy and social psychology, noted the idea that relationships could be “sick” even if the people involved were otherwise “healthy,” and even vice versa: Otherwise “sick” people could find themselves in a mutually supportive and “healthy” relationship.
Moreno’s ideas may have influenced some of the pioneers of family therapy, but also there were developments in general science, namely, cybernetic theory, developed in the mid-1940s, and noting the nature of circularity and feedback in complex systems. By the 1950s, the idea that relationships themselves could be problematic became quite apparent. So, diagnostically, in the sense not of naming a disease or disorder, but just helping people think through what was really going on, the idea of relational disorder was nothing new.
The majority of research on relational disorders concerns three relationship systems:
Adult children and their parents;
Minor children and their parents; and
The marital relationship.
There is also an increasing body of research on problems in dyadic gay relationships and on problematic sibling relationships.
Marital disorders are divided into “Marital Conflict Disorder Without Violence” and “Marital Abuse Disorder (Marital Conflict Disorder With Violence).” Couples with marital disorders sometimes come to clinical attention because the couple recognise long-standing dissatisfaction with their marriage and come to the clinician on their own initiative or are referred by a health care professional. Secondly, there is serious violence in the marriage which is “usually the husband battering the wife”. In these cases the emergency room or a legal authority often is the first to notify the clinician.
Most importantly, marital violence “is a major risk factor for serious injury and even death and women in violent marriages are at much greater risk of being seriously injured or killed” (National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women 2000). The authors of this study add that “There is current considerable controversy over whether male-to-female marital violence is best regarded as a reflection of male psychopathology and control or whether there is an empirical base and clinical utility for conceptualizing these patterns as relational.”
Recommendations for clinicians making a diagnosis of “Marital Relational Disorder” should include the assessment of actual or “potential” male violence as regularly as they assess the potential for suicide in depressed patients. Further, “clinicians should not relax their vigilance after a battered wife leaves her husband, because some data suggest that the period immediately following a marital separation is the period of greatest risk for the women.
Many men will stalk and batter their wives in an effort to get them to return or punish them for leaving. Initial assessments of the potential for violence in a marriage can be supplemented by standardised interviews and questionnaires, which have been reliable and valid aids in exploring marital violence more systematically.
The authors conclude with what they call “very recent information” on the course of violent marriages which suggests that “over time a husband’s battering may abate somewhat, but perhaps because he has successfully intimidated his wife.”
The risk of violence remains strong in a marriage in which it has been a feature in the past. Thus, treatment is essential here; the clinician cannot just wait and watch. The most urgent clinical priority is the protection of the wife because she is the one most frequently at risk, and clinicians must be aware that supporting assertiveness by a battered wife may lead to more beatings or even death.
In some cases, men are abuse victims of their wives; there is not exclusively male-on-female physical violence, although this is more common than female-on-male violence.
Research on parent-child abuse bears similarities to that on marital violence, with the defining characteristic of the disorder being physical aggression by a parent toward a child. The disorder is frequently concealed by parent and child, but may come to the attention of the clinician in several ways, from emergency room medical staff to reports from child protection services.
Some features of abusive parent–child relationships that serve as a starting point for classification include:
The parent is physically aggressive with a child, often producing physical injury;
Parent-child interaction is coercive, and parents are quick to react to provocations with aggressive responses, and children often reciprocate aggression;
Parents do not respond effectively to positive or prosocial behaviour in the child;
Parents do not engage in discussion about emotions;
Parent engages in deficient play behaviour, ignores the child, rarely initiates play, and does little teaching;
Children are insecurely attached and, where mothers have a history of physical abuse, show distinctive patterns of disorganised attachment; and
Defining the relational aspects of these disorders can have important consequences. For example, in the case of early appearing feeding disorders, attention to relational problems may help delineate different types of clinical problems within an otherwise broad category. In the case of conduct disorder, the relational problems may be so central to the maintenance, if not the aetiology, of the disorder that effective treatment may be impossible without recognising and delineating it.
Depression is a symptom of some physical diseases; a side effect of some drugs and medical treatments; and a symptom of some mood disorders such as major depressive disorder or dysthymia. Physical causes are ruled out with a clinical assessment of depression that measures vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and hormones. Management of depression may involve a number of different therapies: medications, behaviour therapy, psychotherapy, and medical devices.
Though psychiatric medication is the most frequently prescribed therapy for major depression, psychotherapy may be effective, either alone or in combination with medication. Combining psychotherapy and antidepressants may provide a “slight advantage”, but antidepressants alone or psychotherapy alone are not significantly different from other treatments, or “active intervention controls”. Given an accurate diagnosis of major depressive disorder, in general the type of treatment (psychotherapy and/or antidepressants, alternate or other treatments, or active intervention) is “less important than getting depressed patients involved in an active therapeutic program.”
Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice in those under the age of 18, with medication offered only in conjunction with the former and generally not as a first line agent. The possibility of depression, substance misuse or other mental health problems in the parents should be considered and, if present and if it may help the child, the parent should be treated in parallel with the child.
Psychotherapy and Behaviour Therapy
There are a number of different psychotherapies for depression which are provided to individuals or groups by psychotherapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, counsellors or psychiatric nurses. With more chronic forms of depression, the most effective treatment is often considered to be a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice in people under 18. A meta-analysis examined the effectiveness of psychotherapy for depression across ages from younger than 13 years to older than 75 years. It summarizes results from 366 trials included 36,702 patients. It found that the best results were for young adults, with an average effect size of g=.98 (95% CI, 0.79-1.16). The effects were smallest for young children (<13 years), g = .35 (95% CI, 0.15-0.55), and second largest in the oldest group, g = .97 (95% CI, 0.42-1.52). The study was not able to compare the different types of therapy to each other. Most of the studies with children used therapies originally developed with adults, which may have reduced the effectiveness. The greater benefits with young adults might be due to a large number of studies including college students, who might have an easier time learning therapy skills and techniques. Most of the studies in children were done in the USA, whereas in older age groups, more balanced numbers of studies came from Europe and other parts of the world as well.
As the most studied form of psychotherapy for depression, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is thought to work by teaching clients to learn a set of cognitive and behavioural skills, which they can employ on their own. Earlier research suggested that cognitive behavioural therapy was not as effective as antidepressant medication in the treatment of depression; however, more recent research suggests that it can perform as well as antidepressants in treating patients with moderate to severe depression. Beck’s treatment manual, Cognitive therapy of depression, has undergone the most research and accumulated the most evidence for its use. However, a number of other CBT manuals also have evidence to support their effectiveness with depression.
The effect of psychotherapy on patient and clinician rated improvement as well as on revision rates have declined steadily from the 1970s.
A systematic review of data comparing low-intensity CBT (such as guided self-help by means of written materials and limited professional support, and website-based interventions) with usual care found that patients who initially had more severe depression benefited from low-intensity interventions at least as much as less-depressed patients.
For the treatment of adolescent depression, one published study found that CBT without medication performed no better than a placebo, and significantly worse than the antidepressant fluoxetine. However, the same article reported that CBT and fluoxetine outperformed treatment with only fluoxetine. Combining fluoxetine with CBT appeared to bring no additional benefit in two different studies or, at the most, only marginal benefit, in a fourth study.
Behaviour therapy for depression is sometimes referred to as behavioural activation. Studies exist showing behavioural activation to be superior to CBT. In addition, behavioural activation appears to take less time and lead to longer lasting change. Two well-researched treatment manuals include Social skills training for depression and Behavioural activation treatment for depression.
Emotionally focused therapy, founded by Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg in 1985, treats depression by identifying and processing underlying emotions. The treatment manual, Facilitating emotional change, outlines treatment techniques.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a mindfulness form of CBT, which has its roots in behaviour analysis, also demonstrates that it is effective in treating depression, and can be more helpful than traditional CBT, especially where depression is accompanied by anxiety and where it is resistant to traditional CBT.
A review of four studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a recently developed class-based program designed to prevent relapse, suggests that MBCT may have an additive effect when provided with the usual care in patients who have had three or more depressive episodes, although the usual care did not include antidepressant treatment or any psychotherapy, and the improvement observed may have reflected non-specific or placebo effects. Of note, although Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression prevented relapse of future depressive episodes, there is no research on whether it can cause the remission of a current depressive episode.
Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) focuses on the social and interpersonal triggers that may cause depression. There is evidence that it is an effective treatment for depression. Here, the therapy takes a fairly structured course (often 12 sessions, as in the original research versions) as in the case with CBT; however, the focus is on relationships with others. Unlike family therapy, IPT is an individual format, so it is possible to work on interpersonal themes even if other family members do not come to the session. Therapy can be used to help a person develop or improve interpersonal skills in order to allow him or her to communicate more effectively and reduce stress. In a meta-analysis of 16 studies and 4,356 patients, the average improvement in depressive symptoms was an effect size of d = 0.63 (95% CI, 0.36 to 0.90). IPT combined with pharmacotherapy was more effective in preventing relapse than pharmacotherapy alone, number needed to treat = 7.63.
Psychoanalysis, a school of thought founded by Sigmund Freud that emphasizes the resolution of unconscious mental conflicts, is used by its practitioners to treat clients presenting with major depression. A more widely practiced technique, called psychodynamic psychotherapy, is loosely based on psychoanalysis and has an additional social and interpersonal focus. In a meta-analysis of three controlled trials, psychodynamic psychotherapy was found to be as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression.
Shared decision making is an approach whereby patients and clinicians freely share important evidence when tasked with decision making and where patients are guided to consider the best available options to make an informed decision. The principles are well documented, but there is a gap in that it’s hard to apply them in routine clinical practice. The steps have been simplified into five steps. The first step is seeking patient participation in that the health practitioner is tasked with communicating existing choices and therefore inviting them to the decision making process. The next step involves assisting the patient to explore and compare the treatment options by a critical analysis of the risks and benefits. The third step involves the assessment of the patient’s values and what they prefer taking to account what is of paramount urgency to the patient. Step 4 involves decision making where the patient and the practitioner make a conclusive decision on the best option and arrange for subsequent follow up meetings. Finally, the fifth step involves the analysis of the patient’s decision’. Five steps for you and your patients to work together to make the best possible health care decisions. The step involves monitoring of the degree of implementation, overcoming of barriers of decision implantation consequently the decisions need to be revisited and optimised thus ensuring the decision has a positive impact on health outcomes its success relies on the ability of the health practitioner to create a good interpersonal relationship with the patient.
Depression still remains a major problem in the US whereby statistics have it that 16 million people were affected in the year 2017. The depression is multifactorial and has been on the increase due to societal pressure, genetic association and increase in use of drugs. incorporation of nursing in management of depression may seem important in that nursing holds a pivotal role in health care delivery where they are the health practitioners that have been trained to be versatile from clinical to psychological care. Their incorporation in shared decision making in treating depression may be important as nurses are known to have the best interpersonal relationship with the patients thus a better collaborative model can be achieved due to this fact. With this in mind, the nurses may serve to administer drugs in management, prepare and maintain the patient’s records, interaction with other care staff to achieve optimum care, and organising therapy sessions. In a study another study concerning shared decision-making interventions for people with mental health conditions there were no overt benefits that were discovered and the called for further research in this area. Another study found that it is important to begin the dissemination and implementation of SDM as they proved that it has benefits in healthcare especially in mental health care and has received social and government support and however transitioning to SDM has proven to be an uphill task. It has been suggested that SDM is of importance in demonstrating patient preferences in decision making when there is no clear approach to treatment. In addition, numerous tools can be used to make the decision making the process easier these include the Controlled Preferences Scale that informs clinicians on how to actively involve patients
Commentators suggest that providers need to embrace shared decision making by making sure that patients participate actively in their management thus enabling the success of the model.
To find the most effective pharmaceutical drug treatment, the dosages of medications must often be adjusted, different combinations of antidepressants tried, or antidepressants changed. Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NRIs) can be used as antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral), escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Seroxat), and citalopram, are the primary medications considered, due to their relatively mild side effects and broad effect on the symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as reduced risk in overdose, compared to their older tricyclic alternatives. Those who do not respond to the first SSRI tried can be switched to another. If sexual dysfunction is present prior to the onset of depression, SSRIs should be avoided. Another popular option is to switch to the atypical antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin) or to add bupropion to the existing therapy; this strategy is possibly more effective. It is not uncommon for SSRIs to cause or worsen insomnia; the sedating noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant (NaSSA) antidepressant mirtazapine (Zispin, Remeron) can be used in such cases. CBT for Insomnia can also help to alleviate the insomnia without additional medication. Venlafaxine (Effexor) from the SNRI class may be moderately more effective than SSRIs; however, it is not recommended as a first-line treatment because of the higher rate of side effects, and its use is specifically discouraged in children and adolescents. Fluoxetine is the only antidepressant recommended for people under the age of 18, though, if a child or adolescent patient is intolerant to fluoxetine, another SSRI may be considered. Evidence of effectiveness of SSRIs in those with depression complicated by dementia is lacking.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) have more side effects than SSRIs (but less sexual dysfunctions) and are usually reserved for the treatment of inpatients, for whom the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline, in particular, appears to be more effective. A different class of antidepressants, the monoamine oxidase inhibitors, have historically been plagued by questionable efficacy (although early studies used dosages now considered too low) and life-threatening adverse effects. They are still used only rarely, although newer agents of this class (RIMA), with a better side effect profile, have been developed.
In older patients TCAs and SSRIs are of the same efficacy. However, there are differences between TCA related antidepressants and classical TCAs in terms of side effect profiles and withdrawal when compared to SSRIs.
There is evidence a prominent side-effect of antidepressants, emotional blunting, is confused with a symptom of depression itself. The cited study, according to Professor Linda Gask was: ‘funded by a pharmaceutical company (Servier) and two of its authors are employees of that company’, which may bias the results. The study authors’ note: “emotional blunting is reported by nearly half of depressed patients on antidepressants and that it appears to be common to all monoaminergic antidepressants not only SSRIs”. Additionally, they note: “The OQuESA scores are highly correlated with the HAD depression score; emotional blunting cannot be described simply as a side-effect of antidepressant, but also as a symptom of depression…More emotional blunting is associated with a poorer quality of remission…”
Acetylcarnitine levels were lower in depressed patients than controls and in rats it causes rapid antidepressant effects through epigenetic mechanisms. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 12 randomised controlled trials found “supplementation significantly decreases depressive symptoms compared with placebo/no intervention, while offering a comparable effect with that of established antidepressant agents with fewer adverse effects.”
A 2012 cross-sectional study found an association between zinc deficiency and depressive symptoms among women, but not men, and a 2013 meta-analysis of 17 observational studies found that blood zinc concentrations were lower in depressed subjects than in control subjects. A 2012 meta-analysis found that zinc supplementation as an adjunct to antidepressant drug treatment significantly lowered depressive symptom scores of depressed patients. The potential mechanisms underlying the association between low serum zinc and depression remain unclear, but may involve the regulation of neurotransmitter, endocrine and neurogenesis pathways. Zinc supplementation has been reported to improve symptoms of ADHD and depression. A 2013 review found that zinc supplementation may be an effective treatment in major depression.
Many studies have found an association between magnesium intake and depression. Magnesium was lower in serum of depressed patients than controls. One trial found magnesium chloride to be effective for depression in seniors with type 2 diabetes while another trial found magnesium citrate decreased depression in patients with fibromyalgia. One negative trial used magnesium oxide, which is poorly absorbed. A randomised, open-label study found that consumption of magnesium chloride for 6 weeks resulted in a clinically significant net improvement in depression, and that effects were observed within 2 weeks.
Physicians often add a medication with a different mode of action to bolster the effect of an antidepressant in cases of treatment resistance; a 2002 large community study of 244,859 depressed Veterans Administration patients found that 22% had received a second agent, most commonly a second antidepressant. Lithium has been used to augment antidepressant therapy in those who have failed to respond to antidepressants alone. Furthermore, lithium dramatically decreases the suicide risk in recurrent depression. Addition of atypical antipsychotics when the patient has not responded to an antidepressant is also known to increase the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs, albeit at the cost of more frequent and potentially serious side effects. There is some evidence for the addition of a thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine, in patients with normal thyroid function. Stephen M. Stahl, renowned academician in psychopharmacology, has stated resorting to a dynamic psychostimulant, in particular, d-amphetamine is the “classical augmentation strategy for treatment-refractory depression”. However, the use of stimulants in cases of treatment-resistant depression is relatively controversial.
Efficacy of Medication and Psychotherapy
Antidepressants are statistically superior to placebo but their overall effect is low-to-moderate. In that respect they often did not exceed the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) criteria for a “clinically significant” effect. In particular, the effect size was very small for moderate depression but increased with severity, reaching “clinical significance” for very severe depression. These results were consistent with the earlier clinical studies in which only patients with severe depression benefited from either psychotherapy or treatment with an antidepressant, imipramine, more than from the placebo treatment. Despite obtaining similar results, the authors argued about their interpretation. One author concluded that there “seems little evidence to support the prescription of antidepressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients, unless alternative treatments have failed to provide benefit.” The other author agreed that “antidepressant ‘glass’ is far from full” but disagreed “that it is completely empty”. He pointed out that the first-line alternative to medication is psychotherapy, which does not have superior efficacy.
Antidepressants in general are as effective as psychotherapy for major depression, and this conclusion holds true for both severe and mild forms of MDD. In contrast, medication gives better results for dysthymia. The subgroup of SSRIs may be slightly more efficacious than psychotherapy. On the other hand, significantly more patients drop off from the antidepressant treatment than from psychotherapy, likely because of the side effects of antidepressants. Successful psychotherapy appears to prevent the recurrence of depression even after it has been terminated or replaced by occasional “booster” sessions. The same degree of prevention can be achieved by continuing antidepressant treatment.
Two studies suggest that the combination of psychotherapy and medication is the most effective way to treat depression in adolescents. Both TADS (Treatment of Adolescents with Depression Study) and TORDIA (Treatment of Resistant Depression in Adolescents) showed very similar results. TADS resulted in 71% of their teen subjects having “much” or “very much” improvement in mood over the 61% with medication alone and 43% with CBT alone. Similarly, TORDIA showed a 55% improvement with CBT and drugs versus a 41% with drug therapy alone. However, a more recent meta-analysis of 34 trials of 14 drugs used with children and adolescents found that only fluoxetine produced significant benefit compared to placebo, with a medium sized effect (standardize mean difference = .5).
The risk factors for treatment resistant depression are: the duration of the episode of depression, severity of the episode, if bipolar, lack of improvement in symptoms within the first couple of treatment weeks, anxious or avoidant and borderline comorbidity and old age. Treatment resistant depression is best handled with a combination of conventional antidepressant together with atypical antipsychotics. Another approach is to try different antidepressants. It is inconclusive which approach is superior. Treatment resistant depression can be misdiagnosed if subtherapeutic doses of antidepressants is the case, patient nonadherence, intolerable adverse effects or their thyroid disease or other conditions is misdiagnosed as depression.
Clinical and experimental studies have reported antidepressant activity of chromium particularly in atypical depression, characterised by increased appetite and carbohydrate craving.
Essential Fatty Acids
A 2015 Cochrane Collaboration review found insufficient evidence with which to determine if omega-3 fatty acid has any effect on depression. A 2016 review found that if trials with formulations containing mostly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are separated from trials using formulations containing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), it appeared that EPA may have an effect while DHA may not, but there was insufficient evidence to be sure.
The amino acid creatine, commonly used as a supplement to improve the performance of bodybuilders, has been studied for its potential antidepressant properties. A double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial focusing on women with major depressive disorder found that daily creatine supplementation adjunctive to escitalopram was more effective than escitalopram alone. Studies on mice have found that the antidepressant effects of creatine can be blocked by drugs that act against dopamine receptors, suggesting that the drug acts on dopamine pathways.
Dopamine Receptor Agonist
Some research suggests dopamine receptor agonist may be effective in treating depression, however studies are few and results are preliminary.
Inositol, an alcohol sugar found in fruits, beans grains and nuts may have antidepressant effects in high doses. Inositol may exert its effects by altering intracellular signalling.
Research on the antidepressant effects of ketamine infusions at subanaesthetic doses has consistently shown rapid (4 to 72 hours) responses from single doses, with substantial improvement in mood in the majority of patients and remission in some. However, these effects are often short-lived, and attempts to prolong the antidepressant effect with repeated doses and extended (“maintenance”) treatment have resulted in only modest success.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 5 studies found that N-Acetylcysteine reduces depressive symptoms more than placebo and has good tolerability. N-Acetylecysteine may exert benefits as a precursor to the antioxidant glutathione, thus modulating glutamatergic, neurotropic, and inflammatory pathways.
St John’s Wort
A 2008 Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis concluded that:
“The available evidence suggests that the hypericum extracts tested in the included trials a) are superior to placebo in patients with major depression; b) are similarly effective as standard antidepressants; c) and have fewer side effects than standard antidepressants. The association of country of origin and precision with effects sizes complicates the interpretation.”
The United States National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health advice is that “St. John’s wort may help some types of depression, similar to treatment with standard prescription antidepressants, but the evidence is not definitive.” and warns that “Combining St. John’s wort with certain antidepressants can lead to a potentially life-threatening increase of serotonin, a brain chemical targeted by antidepressants. St. John’s wort can also limit the effectiveness of many prescription medicines.”
A 2011 review reported Rhodiola rosea “is an adaptogen plant that can be especially helpful in treating asthenic or lethargic depression, and may be combined with conventional antidepressants to alleviate some of their common side effects.” A 6 week double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study with 89 patients with mild to moderate depression found that R. rosea statistically significantly reduced depression symptoms, and no side effects were reported.
A 2013 meta-analysis found that saffron supplementation significantly reduced depression symptoms compared to placebo, and both saffron supplementation and the antidepressant groups were similarly effective in reducing depression symptoms. A 2015 meta-analysis supported the “efficacy of saffron as compared to placebo in improving the following conditions: depressive symptoms (compared to anti-depressants and placebo), premenstrual symptoms, and sexual dysfunction. In addition, saffron use was also effective in reducing excessive snacking behavior.” The antidepressant effect of saffron stigma extracts may be mediated via its components safranal and crocin: “crocin may act via the uptake inhibition of dopamine and norepinephrine, and safranal via serotonin.” Therapeutic doses of saffron exhibits no significant toxicity in both clinical and experimental investigations.
S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is available as a prescription antidepressant in Europe and an over-the-counter dietary supplement in the US. Evidence from 16 clinical trials with a small number of subjects, reviewed in 1994 and 1996 suggested it to be more effective than placebo and as effective as standard antidepressant medication for the treatment of major depression.
Tryptophan and 5-HTP
The amino acid tryptophan is converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) which is subsequently converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Since serotonin deficiency has been recognized as a possible cause of depression, it has been suggested that consumption of tryptophan or 5-HTP may therefore improve depression symptoms by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. 5-HTP and tryptophan are sold over the counter in North America, but requires a prescription in Europe. The use of 5-HTP instead of tryptophan bypasses the conversion of tryptophan into 5-HTP by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase, which is the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of serotonin, and 5-HTP easily crosses the blood–brain barrier unlike tryptophan, which requires a transporter.
Small studies have been performed using 5-HTP and tryptophan as adjunctive therapy in addition to standard treatment for depression. While some studies had positive results, they were criticised for having methodological flaws, and a more recent study did not find sustained benefit from their use. The safety of these medications has not been well studied. Due to the lack of high quality studies, preliminary nature of studies showing effectiveness, the lack of adequate study on their safety, and reports of Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome from contaminated tryptophan in 1989 and 1990, the use of tryptophan and 5-HTP is not highly recommended or thought to be clinically useful.
A variety of medical devices are in use or under consideration for treatment of depression including devices that offer electroconvulsive therapy, vagus nerve stimulation, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, and cranial electrotherapy stimulation. The use of such devices in the United States requires approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after field trials. In 2010 an FDA advisory panel considered the question of how such field trials should be managed. Factors considered were whether drugs had been effective, how many different drugs had been tried, and what tolerance for suicides should be in field trials.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a standard psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in patients to provide relief from psychiatric illnesses. ECT is used with informed consent as a last line of intervention for major depressive disorder. Among the elderly, who often experience depression, the efficacy of ECT is difficult to determine due to the lack of trials comparing ECT to other treatments.
A round of ECT is effective for about 50% of people with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, whether it is unipolar or bipolar. Follow-up treatment is still poorly studied, but about half of people who respond, relapse with twelve months.
Aside from effects in the brain, the general physical risks of ECT are similar to those of brief general anaesthesia. Immediately following treatment, the most common adverse effects are confusion and memory loss. ECT is considered one of the least harmful treatment options available for severely depressed pregnant women.
A usual course of ECT involves multiple administrations, typically given two or three times per week until the patient is no longer suffering symptoms ECT is administered under anaesthetic with a muscle relaxant. Electroconvulsive therapy can differ in its application in three ways: electrode placement, frequency of treatments, and the electrical waveform of the stimulus. These three forms of application have significant differences in both adverse side effects and symptom remission. After treatment, drug therapy is usually continued, and some patients receive maintenance ECT.
ECT appears to work in the short term via an anticonvulsant effect mostly in the frontal lobes, and longer term via neurotrophic effects primarily in the medial temporal lobe.
Deep Brain Stimulation
The support for the use of deep brain stimulation in treatment-resistant depression comes from a handful of case studies, and this treatment is still in a very early investigational stage. In this technique electrodes are implanted in a specific region of the brain, which is then continuously stimulated. A March 2010 systematic review found that “about half the patients did show dramatic improvement” and that adverse events were “generally trivial” given the younger psychiatric patient population than with movements disorders. Deep brain stimulation is available on an experimental basis only in the United States; no systems are approved by the FDA for this use. It is available in Australia.
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or deep transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive method used to stimulate small regions of the brain. During a TMS procedure, a magnetic field generator, or “coil” is placed near the head of the person receiving the treatment. The coil produces small electric currents in the region of the brain just under the coil via electromagnetic induction. The coil is connected to a pulse generator, or stimulator, that delivers electric current to the coil.
TMS was approved by the FDA for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder in 2008 and as of 2014 clinical evidence supports this use. The American Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Disorders, and the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists have endorsed rTMS for trMDD.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) uses an implanted electrode and generator to deliver electrical pulses to the vagus nerve, one of the primary nerves emanating from the brain. It is an approved therapy for treatment-resistant depression in the EU and US and is sometimes used as an adjunct to existing antidepressant treatment. The support for this method comes mainly from open-label trials, which indicate that several months may be required to see a benefit. The only large double-blind trial conducted lasted only 10 weeks and yielded inconclusive results; VNS failed to show superiority over a sham treatment on the primary efficacy outcome, but the results were more favourable for one of the secondary outcomes. The authors concluded “This study did not yield definitive evidence of short-term efficacy for adjunctive VNS in treatment-resistant depression.”
Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation
A 2014 Cochrane review found insufficient evidence to determine whether or not Cranial electrotherapy stimulation with alternating current is safe and effective for treating depression.
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
A 2016 meta-analysis of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) reported some efficacy of tDCS in the treatment of acute depressive disorder with moderate effect size, and low efficacy in treatment-resistant depression, and that use of 2 mA current strength over 20 minutes per day over a short time span can be considered safe.
Bright Light Therapy
A meta-analysis of bright light therapy commissioned by the American Psychiatric Association found a significant reduction in depression symptom severity associated with bright light treatment. Benefit was found for both seasonal affective disorder and for non-seasonal depression, with effect sizes similar to those for conventional antidepressants. For non-seasonal depression, adding light therapy to the standard antidepressant treatment was not effective. A meta-analysis of light therapy for non-seasonal depression conducted by Cochrane Collaboration, studied a different set of trials, where light was used mostly in combination with antidepressants or wake therapy. A moderate statistically significant effect of light therapy was found, with response significantly better than control treatment in high-quality studies, in studies that applied morning light treatment, and with patients who respond to total or partial sleep deprivation. Both analyses noted poor quality of most studies and their small size, and urged caution in the interpretation of their results. The short 1-2 weeks duration of most trials makes it unclear whether the effect of light therapy could be sustained in the longer term.
The 2013 Cochrane Collaboration review on physical exercise for depression noted that, based upon limited evidence, it is moderately more effective than a control intervention and comparable to psychological or antidepressant drug therapies. Smaller effects were seen in more methodologically rigorous studies. Three subsequent 2014 systematic reviews that included the Cochrane review in their analysis concluded with similar findings: one indicated that physical exercise is effective as an adjunct treatment with antidepressant medication; the other two indicated that physical exercise has marked antidepressant effects and recommended the inclusion of physical activity as an adjunct treatment for mild-moderate depression and mental illness in general. These studies also found smaller effect sizes in more methodologically rigorous studies. All four systematic reviews called for more research in order to determine the efficacy or optimal exercise intensity, duration, and modality. The evidence for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in mediating some of the neurobiological effects of physical exercise was noted in one review which hypothesized that increased BDNF signalling is responsible for the antidepressant effect.
Mindfulness meditation programs may help improve symptoms of depression, but they are no better than active treatments such as medication, exercise, and other behavioural therapies.
A 2009 review found that 3 to 10 sessions of music therapy resulted in a noticeable improvement in depressive symptoms, with still greater improvement after 16 to 51 sessions.
Depression is sometimes associated with insomnia – (difficulty in falling asleep, early waking, or waking in the middle of the night). The combination of these two results, depression and insomnia, will only worsen the situation. Hence, good sleep hygiene is important to help break this vicious circle. It would include measures such as regular sleep routines, avoidance of stimulants such as caffeine and management of sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea.
Quitting smoking cigarettes is associated with reduced depression and anxiety, with the effect “equal or larger than” those of antidepressant treatments.
Total/Partial Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation (skipping a night’s sleep) has been found to improve symptoms of depression in 40-60% of patients. Partial sleep deprivation in the second half of the night may be as effective as an all night sleep deprivation session. Improvement may last for weeks, though the majority (50-80%) relapse after recovery sleep. Shifting or reduction of sleep time, light therapy, antidepressant drugs, and lithium have been found to potentially stabilise sleep deprivation treatment effects.
Shared care, when primary and specialty physicians have joint management of an individual’s health care, has been shown to alleviate depression outcomes.
1930 – Nathaniel Branden, Canadian-American psychotherapist and author (d. 2014).
Nathaniel Branden (born Nathan Blumenthal; 09 April 1930 to 03 December 2014) was a Canadian-American psychotherapist and writer known for his work in the psychology of self-esteem. A former associate and romantic partner of Ayn Rand, Branden also played a prominent role in the 1960s in promoting Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. Rand and Branden split acrimoniously in 1968, after which Branden focused on developing his own psychological theories and modes of therapy.
Early Life and Education
Nathaniel Branden was born Nathan Blumenthal in Brampton, Ontario, and grew up alongside three sisters, two older and one younger. A gifted student, he became impatient with his studies during his first year of high school and skipped school often in favour of the library. After getting failing grades as a result, he convinced his mother to send him to a special accelerated high school for adults, and subsequently did well in that environment.
After graduating from high school, Branden went on to earn his BA in psychology from the University of California Los Angeles, an MA from New York University, and in 1973, a Ph.D. in psychology from the California Graduate Institute (CGI), then an unaccredited, state-approved school whose graduates may be licensed by the state to practice psychology (Graduates of unaccredited state-approved schools such as CGI are limited to associate membership in the American Psychological Association).
In 1950, after he had read The Fountainhead and exchanged letters and phone calls with Ayn Rand, Branden and his then-girlfriend Barbara Weidman visited Rand and her husband Frank O’Connor at their Los Angeles home. The four became close friends, with Branden and Rand in particular sharing a vivid interest in philosophical exploration and development. After the publication of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, Branden sensed an interest on the part of Rand’s readers in further philosophic education. In 1958 he created the Nathaniel Branden Lectures, later renamed the Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI). The organization disseminated Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism by offering live and taped lecture courses by a variety of Objectivist intellectuals, including Rand, Branden, and Alan Greenspan, whom Branden had brought into Rand’s fold. During this time, Branden also contributed articles to Rand’s newsletters on subjects ranging from economics to politics to psychology. Branden’s work at NBI included translating the principles expressed by Rand in her fiction and non-fiction writing into a systematised construct that became known as Objectivism.
NBI expanded considerably over the course of its existence, ultimately offering courses in 80 cities and establishing an office in the Empire State Building. In 1968, Rand publicly broke with Branden and published an article denouncing him and accusing him of a variety of offenses, such as philosophic irrationality and unresolved psychological problems. In response, Branden sent out a letter to the NBI mailing list denying Rand’s accusations and suggesting that the actual cause of Rand’s denunciation of him was his unwillingness to engage in a romantic relationship with her (Branden later explained in his memoir that he and Rand had in fact been romantically intimate for a period of time in the late 1950s; see personal life).
After the break, Branden went on to publish The Psychology of Self-Esteem (many chapters of which he had published originally in Rand’s newsletter), and then to develop his theory and mode of therapy more independently of Rand’s influence. Though he remained supportive of the broad essentials of Rand’s philosophy, he eventually offered criticisms of aspects of her work, naming as problems a tendency to encourage emotional repression and moralizing, a failure to understand psychology beyond its cognitive aspects, and a failure to appreciate adequately the importance of kindness in human relationships. He also apologised in an interview to “every student of Objectivism” for “perpetuating the Ayn Rand mystique” and for “contributing to that dreadful atmosphere of intellectual repressiveness that pervades the Objectivist movement.”
Psychology of Self-Esteem
Branden argued that self-esteem is a human psychological need and that to the extent this need remains unmet, pathology (defensiveness, anxiety, depression, difficulty in relationships, etc.) tends to result. He defined self-esteem formally as “the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness”, and proposed that, while others (parents, teachers, friends) can nurture and support self-esteem in an individual, self-esteem also relies upon various internally generated practices. These consisted, in Branden’s framework, of six “pillars” of self-esteem:
Living consciously: the practice of being aware of what one is doing while one is doing it, i.e. the practice of mindfulness.
Self-acceptance: the practice of owning truths regarding one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviours; of being kind toward oneself with respect to them; and of being “for” oneself in a basic sense.
Self-responsibility: the practice of owning one’s authorship of one’s actions and of owning one’s capacity to be the cause of the effects one desires.
Self-assertiveness: the practice of treating one’s needs and interests with respect and of expressing them in appropriate ways.
Living purposefully: the practice of formulating goals and of formulating and implementing action plans to achieve them.
Personal integrity: the practice of maintaining alignment between one’s behaviours and convictions.
In his book Taking Responsibility Branden defended voluntarism as a moral concept and libertarianism as a political one; likewise, individualism and personal autonomy are seen as essential to human freedom.
Branden distinguished his approach to self-esteem from that of many others by his inclusion of both confidence and worth in his definition of self-esteem, and by his emphasis on the importance of internally generated practices for the improvement and maintenance of self-esteem. For this reason, he at times expressed lack of enthusiasm about the teachings of the “self-esteem movement”, which he is sometimes credited with having spawned (he was sometimes referred to as “the father of the self-esteem movement”).
Mode of Therapy
While Branden began his practice of therapy as, primarily, a cognitivist, starting in the 1970s he rapidly shifted toward a decidedly technically eclectic stance, utilising techniques from gestalt therapy, psychodrama, neo-Reichian breathwork, Ericksonian hypnosis, as well as original techniques such as his sentence completion method, which he favoured. In a piece from 1973, he characterised his mode of therapy as consisting of four aspects: education, emotional unblocking, stimulation of insight, and encouragement of behaviour change. In contrast to the exclusively experiential or exclusively cognitive (insight-oriented) methods of the day, Branden saw his mode of therapy as distinguished in part by “the integration of the emotional and the cognitive, the practice of constantly moving back and forth between the experiential and the conceptual.”
Sentence completion, a method that figured prominently in Branden’s mode of therapy, is an example of this dual focus. In its most common variation, it consists of a therapist giving a client an incomplete sentence – a sentence stem – and having the client repeat the sentence stem over and over, each time adding a new ending, going quickly, without thinking or censoring, and inventing endings when stuck. In this way, a therapist can facilitate the generation of awareness and insight (for example, with a stem such as, “If my fear could speak, it might say—”), and shifts in cognitive-motivational structure (for example, with a stem such as, “If I were to be kinder to myself when I’m afraid—”). By improvising a succession of such stems, many based on endings generated by a previous stem, a therapist can, according to Branden, lead a client on a sometimes dramatically emotional journey of self exploration and self-discovery.
Eventually, Branden integrated techniques from the field of energy psychology, such as Thought Field Therapy and Seemorg Matrix work, into his practice, viewing psychological trauma (which such techniques target) as a significant barrier to growth and development. He has described human problems as occurring both “above the line” – that is, in the realm of cognition and volitional behaviour – and “below the line” – that is, in the realm of unconscious trauma stored in the body.
Family therapy, also referred to as couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counselling, is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members.
The different schools of family therapy have in common a belief that, regardless of the origin of the problem, and regardless of whether the clients consider it an “individual” or “family” issue, involving families in solutions often benefits clients. This involvement of families is commonly accomplished by their direct participation in the therapy session. The skills of the family therapist thus include the ability to influence conversations in a way that catalyses the strengths, wisdom, and support of the wider system.
In the field’s early years, many clinicians defined the family in a narrow, traditional manner usually including parents and children. As the field has evolved, the concept of the family is more commonly defined in terms of strongly supportive, long-term roles and relationships between people who may or may not be related by blood or marriage.
The conceptual frameworks developed by family therapists, especially those of family systems theorists, have been applied to a wide range of human behaviour, including organisational dynamics and the study of greatness.
Brief History and Theoretical Frameworks
Formal interventions with families to help individuals and families experiencing various kinds of problems have been a part of many cultures, probably throughout history. These interventions have sometimes involved formal procedures or rituals, and often included the extended family as well as non-kin members of the community (see for example Ho’oponopono). Following the emergence of specialisation in various societies, these interventions were often conducted by particular members of a community – for example, a chief, priest, physician, and so on – usually as an ancillary function.
Family therapy as a distinct professional practice within Western cultures can be argued to have had its origins in the social work movements of the 19th century in the United Kingdom and the United States. As a branch of psychotherapy, its roots can be traced somewhat later to the early 20th century with the emergence of the child guidance movement and marriage counselling. The formal development of family therapy dates from the 1940s and early 1950s with the founding in 1942 of the American Association of Marriage Counsellors (the precursor of the AAMFT), and through the work of various independent clinicians and groups – in the United Kingdom (John Bowlby at the Tavistock Clinic), the United States (Donald deAvila Jackson, John Elderkin Bell, Nathan Ackerman, Christian Midelfort, Theodore Lidz, Lyman Wynne, Murray Bowen, Carl Whitaker, Virginia Satir, Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy), and in Hungary, D.L.P. Liebermann – who began seeing family members together for observation or therapy sessions. There was initially a strong influence from psychoanalysis (most of the early founders of the field had psychoanalytic backgrounds) and social psychiatry, and later from learning theory and behaviour therapy – and significantly, these clinicians began to articulate various theories about the nature and functioning of the family as an entity that was more than a mere aggregation of individuals.
The movement received an important boost starting in the early 1950s through the work of anthropologist Gregory Bateson and colleagues – Jay Haley, Donald D. Jackson, John Weakland, William Fry, and later, Virginia Satir, Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, Paul Watzlawick and others – at Palo Alto in the United States, who introduced ideas from cybernetics and general systems theory into social psychology and psychotherapy, focusing in particular on the role of communication (refer to Bateson Project). This approach eschewed the traditional focus on individual psychology and historical factors – that involve so-called linear causation and content – and emphasized instead feedback and homeostatic mechanisms and “rules” in here-and-now interactions – so-called circular causation and process – that were thought to maintain or exacerbate problems, whatever the original cause(s). This group was also influenced significantly by the work of US psychiatrist, hypnotherapist, and brief therapist, Milton H. Erickson – especially his innovative use of strategies for change, such as paradoxical directives. The members of the Bateson Project (like the founders of a number of other schools of family therapy, including Carl Whitaker, Murray Bowen, and Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy) had a particular interest in the possible psychosocial causes and treatment of schizophrenia, especially in terms of the putative “meaning” and “function” of signs and symptoms within the family system. The research of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts Lyman Wynne and Theodore Lidz on communication deviance and roles (e.g. pseudo-mutuality, pseudo-hostility, schism and skew) in families of people with schizophrenia also became influential with systems-communications-oriented theorists and therapists. A related theme, applying to dysfunction and psychopathology more generally, was that of the “identified patient” or “presenting problem” as a manifestation of or surrogate for the family’s, or even society’s, problems (refer to Double Bind).
By the mid-1960s, a number of distinct schools of family therapy had emerged. From those groups that were most strongly influenced by cybernetics and systems theory, there came MRI Brief Therapy, and slightly later, strategic therapy, Salvador Minuchin’s Structural Family Therapy and the Milan systems model. Partly in reaction to some aspects of these systemic models, came the experiential approaches of Virginia Satir and Carl Whitaker, which downplayed theoretical constructs, and emphasized subjective experience and unexpressed feelings (including the subconscious), authentic communication, spontaneity, creativity, total therapist engagement, and often included the extended family. Concurrently and somewhat independently, there emerged the various intergenerational therapies of Murray Bowen, Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, James Framo, and Norman Paul, which present different theories about the intergenerational transmission of health and dysfunction, but which all deal usually with at least three generations of a family (in person or conceptually), either directly in therapy sessions, or via “homework”, “journeys home”, etc. Psychodynamic family therapy – which, more than any other school of family therapy, deals directly with individual psychology and the unconscious in the context of current relationships – continued to develop through a number of groups that were influenced by the ideas and methods of Nathan Ackerman, and also by the British School of Object Relations and John Bowlby’s work on attachment. Multiple-family group therapy, a precursor of psychoeducational family intervention, emerged, in part, as a pragmatic alternative form of intervention – especially as an adjunct to the treatment of serious mental disorders with a significant biological basis, such as schizophrenia – and represented something of a conceptual challenge to some of the “systemic” (and thus potentially “family-blaming”) paradigms of pathogenesis that were implicit in many of the dominant models of family therapy. The late-1960s and early-1970s saw the development of network therapy (which bears some resemblance to traditional practices such as Ho’oponopono) by Ross Speck and Carolyn Attneave, and the emergence of behavioural marital therapy (renamed behavioural couples therapy in the 1990s; see also relationship counselling) and behavioural family therapy as models in their own right.
By the late-1970s, the weight of clinical experience – especially in relation to the treatment of serious mental disorders – had led to some revision of a number of the original models and a moderation of some of the earlier stridency and theoretical purism. There were the beginnings of a general softening of the strict demarcations between schools, with moves toward rapprochement, integration, and eclecticism – although there was, nevertheless, some hardening of positions within some schools. These trends were reflected in and influenced by lively debates within the field and critiques from various sources, including feminism and post-modernism, that reflected in part the cultural and political tenor of the times, and which foreshadowed the emergence (in the 1980s and 1990s) of the various “post-systems” constructivist and social constructionist approaches. While there was still debate within the field about whether, or to what degree, the systemic-constructivist and medical-biological paradigms were necessarily antithetical to each other (refer to Anti-psychiatry; Biopsychosocial model), there was a growing willingness and tendency on the part of family therapists to work in multi-modal clinical partnerships with other members of the helping and medical professions.
From the mid-1980s to the present, the field has been marked by a diversity of approaches that partly reflect the original schools, but which also draw on other theories and methods from individual psychotherapy and elsewhere – these approaches and sources include: brief therapy, structural therapy, constructivist approaches (e.g. Milan systems, post-Milan/collaborative/conversational, reflective), Bring forthism approach (e.g. Dr. Karl Tomm’s IPscope model and Interventive interviewing), solution-focused therapy, narrative therapy, a range of cognitive and behavioural approaches, psychodynamic and object relations approaches, attachment and emotionally focused therapy, intergenerational approaches, network therapy, and multi-systemic therapy (MST). Multicultural, intercultural, and integrative approaches are being developed, with Vincenzo Di Nicola weaving a synthesis of family therapy and transcultural psychiatry in his model of cultural family therapy, A Stranger in the Family: Culture, Families, and Therapy. Many practitioners claim to be “eclectic”, using techniques from several areas, depending upon their own inclinations and/or the needs of the client(s), and there is a growing movement toward a single “generic” family therapy that seeks to incorporate the best of the accumulated knowledge in the field and which can be adapted to many different contexts; however, there are still a significant number of therapists who adhere more or less strictly to a particular, or limited number of, approach(es).
The Liberation Based Healing framework for family therapy offers a complete paradigm shift for working with families while addressing the intersections of race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation and other socio-political identity markers. This theoretical approach and praxis is informed by Critical Pedagogy, Feminism, Critical Race Theory, and Decolonising Theory. This framework necessitates an understanding of the ways Colonisation, Cis-Heteronormativity, Patriarchy, White Supremacy and other systems of domination impact individuals, families and communities and centres the need to disrupt the status quo in how power operates. Traditional Western models of family therapy have historically ignored these dimensions and when white, male privilege has been critiqued, largely by feminist theory practitioners, it has often been to the benefit of middle class, white women’s experiences. While an understanding of intersectionality is of particular significance in working with families with violence, a liberatory framework examines how power, privilege and oppression operate within and across all relationships. Liberatory practices are based on the principles of Critical-Consciousness, Accountability and Empowerment. These principles guide not only the content of the therapeutic work with clients but also the supervisory and training process of therapists. Dr. Rhea Almeida, developed the Cultural Context Model as a way to operationalize these concepts into practice through the integration of culture circles, sponsors, and a socio-educational process within the therapeutic work.
Ideas and methods from family therapy have been influential in psychotherapy generally: a survey of over 2,500 US therapists in 2006 revealed that of the 10 most influential therapists of the previous quarter-century, three were prominent family therapists and that the marital and family systems model was the second most utilised model after cognitive behavioural therapy.
Family therapy uses a range of counselling and other techniques including:
Structural therapy – identifies and re-orders the organisation of the family system.
Strategic therapy – looks at patterns of interactions between family members.
Systemic/Milan therapy – focuses on belief systems.
Narrative therapy – restoring of dominant problem-saturated narrative, emphasis on context, separation of the problem from the person.
Transgenerational therapy – transgenerational transmission of unhelpful patterns of belief and behaviour.
IPscope model and Interventive Interviewing.
The number of sessions depends on the situation, but the average is 5-20 sessions. A family therapist usually meets several members of the family at the same time. This has the advantage of making differences between the ways family members perceive mutual relations as well as interaction patterns in the session apparent both for the therapist and the family. These patterns frequently mirror habitual interaction patterns at home, even though the therapist is now incorporated into the family system. Therapy interventions usually focus on relationship patterns rather than on analysing impulses of the unconscious mind or early childhood trauma of individuals as a Freudian therapist would do – although some schools of family therapy, for example psychodynamic and intergenerational, do consider such individual and historical factors (thus embracing both linear and circular causation) and they may use instruments such as the genogram to help to elucidate the patterns of relationship across generations.
The distinctive feature of family therapy is its perspective and analytical framework rather than the number of people present at a therapy session. Specifically, family therapists are relational therapists: They are generally more interested in what goes on between individuals rather than within one or more individuals, although some family therapists – in particular those who identify as psychodynamic, object relations, intergenerational, or experiential family therapists (EFTs) – tend to be as interested in individuals as in the systems those individuals and their relationships constitute. Depending on the conflicts at issue and the progress of therapy to date, a therapist may focus on analysing specific previous instances of conflict, as by reviewing a past incident and suggesting alternative ways family members might have responded to one another during it, or instead proceed directly to addressing the sources of conflict at a more abstract level, as by pointing out patterns of interaction that the family might have not noticed.
Family therapists tend to be more interested in the maintenance and/or solving of problems rather than in trying to identify a single cause. Some families may perceive cause-effect analyses as attempts to allocate blame to one or more individuals, with the effect that for many families a focus on causation is of little or no clinical utility. It is important to note that a circular way of problem evaluation is used as opposed to a linear route. Using this method, families can be helped by finding patterns of behaviour, what the causes are, and what can be done to better their situation.
Summary of Theories and Techniques
Adlerian family therapy
Also known as “individual psychology”. Sees the person as a whole. Ideas include compensation for feelings of inferiority leading to striving for significance toward a fictional final goal with a private logic. Birth order and mistaken goals are explored to examine mistaken motivations of children and adults in the family constellation.
Individuals are shaped by their experiences with caregivers in the first three years of life. Used as a foundation for Object Relations Theory. The Strange Situation experiment with infants involves a systematic process of leaving a child alone in a room in order to assess the quality of their parental bond.
Psychoanalysis, play therapy
Bowenian family systems therapy
Murray Bowen, Betty Carter, Philip Guerin, Michael Kerr, Thomas Fogarty, Monica McGoldrick, Edwin Friedman, Daniel Papero
Also known as “intergenerational family therapy” (although there are also other schools of intergenerational family therapy). Family members are driven to achieve a balance of internal and external differentiation, causing anxiety, triangulation, and emotional cutoff. Families are affected by nuclear family emotional processes, sibling positions and multigenerational transmission patterns resulting in an undifferentiated family ego mass.
Problems are the result of operant conditioning that reinforces negative behaviours within the family’s interpersonal social exchanges that extinguish desired behaviour and promote incentives toward unwanted behaviours. This can lead to irrational beliefs and a faulty family schema.
Harry Goolishian, Harlene Anderson, Tom Andersen, Lynn Hoffman, Peggy Penn
Individuals form meanings about their experiences within the context of social relationship on a personal and organisational level. Collaborative therapists help families reorganise and dis-solve their perceived problems through a transparent dialogue about inner thoughts with a “not-knowing” stance intended to illicit new meaning through conversation. Collaborative therapy is an approach that avoids a particular theoretical perspective in favour of a client-centred philosophical process.
Dialogical conversation, not knowing, curiosity, being public, reflecting teams
Virginia Satir, John Banmen, Jane Gerber, Maria Gomori
All people are born into a primary survival triad between themselves and their parents where they adopt survival stances to protect their self-worth from threats communicated by words and behaviours of their family members. Experiential therapists are interested in altering the overt and covert messages between family members that affect their body, mind and feelings in order to promote congruence and to validate each person’s inherent self-worth.
Equality, modelling communication, family life chronology, family sculpting, metaphors, family reconstruction
Families are built upon an unconscious network of implicit loyalties between parents and children that can be damaged when these “relational ethics” of fairness, trust, entitlement, mutuality and merit are breached.
Rebalancing, family negotiations, validation, filial debt repayment
Cultural family therapy
Vincenzo Di Nicola Key influences: Celia Falicov, Antonio Ferreira, James Framo, Edwin Friedman, Mara Selvini Palazzoli, Carlos Sluzki, Victor Turner, Michael White
A synthesis of systemic family therapy with cultural psychiatry to create cultural family therapy (CFT). CFT is an interweaving of stories (family predicaments expressed in narratives of family life) and tools (clinical methods for working with and making sense of these stories in cultural context). Integrates and synthesizes systemic therapy and cultural and medical anthropology with narrative therapy.
Conceptual tools for working across cultures – spirals, masks, roles, codes, cultural strategies, bridges, stories, multiple codes (metaphor and somatics), therapy as “story repair”
Sue Johnson, Les Greenberg
Couples and families can develop rigid patterns of interaction based on powerful emotional experiences that hinder emotional engagement and trust. Treatment aims to enhance empathic capabilities of family members by exploring deep-seated habits and modifying emotional cues.
Carl Whitaker, David Keith, Laura Roberto, Walter Kempler, John Warkentin, Thomas Malone, August Napier
Stemming from Gestalt foundations, change and growth occurs through an existential encounter with a therapist who is intentionally “real” and authentic with clients without pretence, often in a playful and sometimes absurd way as a means to foster flexibility in the family and promote individuation.
Target population adolescents with conduct and behavioural problems. Based on schema theory. Integrate mindfulness to focus family on the present. Validate core beliefs based on past experiences. Offer viable alternative responses. Treatment is based on case conceptualisation process; validate and clarify core beliefs, fears, triggers, and behaviours. Redirect behaviour by anticipating triggers and realigning beliefs and fears.
He developed an object relations approach to intergenerational and family-of-origin therapy.
Working with several generations of the family, family-of-origin approach with families in therapy and with trainees
Feminist family therapy
Sandra Bem Marianne Walters
Complications from social and political disparity between genders are identified as underlying causes of conflict within a family system. Therapists are encouraged to be aware of these influences in order to avoid perpetuating hidden oppression, biases and cultural stereotypes and to model an egalitarian perspective of healthy family relationships.
Demystifying, modelling, equality, personal accountability
Milan systemic family therapy
Luigi Boscolo, Gianfranco Cecchin, Mara Selvini Palazzoli, Giuliana Prata
A practical attempt by the “Milan Group” to establish therapeutic techniques based on Gregory Bateson’s cybernetics that disrupts unseen systemic patterns of control and games between family members by challenging erroneous family beliefs and reworking the family’s linguistic assumptions.
Gregory Bateson, Milton Erickson, Heinz von Foerster
Established by the Mental Research Institute (MRI) as a synthesis of ideas from multiple theorists in order to interrupt misguided attempts by families to create first and second order change by persisting with “more of the same”, mixed signals from unclear metacommunication and paradoxical double-bind messages.
Reframing, prescribing the symptom, relabelling, restraining (going slow), Bellac Ploy
Michael White, David Epston
People use stories to make sense of their experience and to establish their identity as a social and political constructs based on local knowledge. Narrative therapists avoid marginalising their clients by positioning themselves as a co-editor of their reality with the idea that “the person is not the problem, but the problem is the problem.”
By applying the strategies of Freudian psychoanalysis to the family system therapists can gain insight into the interlocking psychopathologies of the family members and seek to improve complementarity.
Kim Insoo Berg, Steve de Shazer, William O’Hanlon, Michelle Weiner-Davis, Paul Watzlawick
The inevitable onset of constant change leads to negative interpretations of the past and language that shapes the meaning of an individual’s situation, diminishing their hope and causing them to overlook their own strengths and resources.
Salvador Minuchin, Harry Aponte, Charles Fishman, Braulio Montalvo
Family problems arise from maladaptive boundaries and subsystems that are created within the overall family system of rules and rituals that governs their interactions.
Joining, family mapping, hypothesizing, re-enactments, reframing, unbalancing
Family therapy has an evolving evidence base. A summary of current evidence is available via the UK’s Association of Family Therapy. Evaluation and outcome studies can also be found on the Family Therapy and Systemic Research Centre website. The website also includes quantitative and qualitative research studies of many aspects of family therapy.
According to a 2004 French government study conducted by French Institute of Health and Medical Research, family and couples therapy was the second most effective therapy after Cognitive behavioural therapy. The study used meta-analysis of over a hundred secondary studies to find some level of effectiveness that was either “proven” or “presumed” to exist. Of the treatments studied, family therapy was presumed or proven effective at treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia and alcohol dependency.
Concerns and Criticism
In a 1999 address to the Coalition of Marriage, Family and Couples Education conference in Washington, D.C., University of Minnesota Professor William Doherty said:
“I take no joy in being a whistle blower, but it’s time. I am a committed marriage and family therapist, having practiced this form of therapy since 1977. I train marriage and family therapists. I believe that marriage therapy can be very helpful in the hands of therapists who are committed to the profession and the practice. But there are a lot of problems out there with the practice of therapy – a lot of problems.”
Doherty suggested questions prospective clients should ask a therapist before beginning treatment:
“Can you describe your background and training in marital therapy?”
“What is your attitude toward salvaging a troubled marriage versus helping couples break up?”
“What is your approach when one partner is seriously considering ending the marriage and the other wants to save it?”
“What percentage of your practice is marital therapy?”
“Of the couples you treat, what percentage would you say work out enough of their problems to stay married with a reasonable amount of satisfaction with the relationship.” “What percentage break up while they are seeing you?” “What percentage do not improve?” “What do you think makes the differences in these results?”
Licensing and Degrees
Family therapy practitioners come from a range of professional backgrounds, and some are specifically qualified or licensed/registered in family therapy (licensing is not required in some jurisdictions and requirements vary from place to place). In the United Kingdom, family therapists will have a prior relevant professional training in one of the helping professions usually psychologists, psychotherapists, or counsellors who have done further training in family therapy, either a diploma or an M.Sc. In the United States there is a specific degree and license as a marriage and family therapist; however, psychologists, nurses, psychotherapists, social workers, or counsellors, and other licensed mental health professionals may practice family therapy. In the UK, family therapists who have completed a four-year qualifying programme of study (MSc) are eligible to register with the professional body the Association of Family Therapy (AFT), and with the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
A master’s degree is required to work as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in some American states. Most commonly, MFTs will first earn a M.S. or M.A. degree in marriage and family therapy, counselling, psychology, family studies, or social work. After graduation, prospective MFTs work as interns under the supervision of a licensed professional and are referred to as an MFTi.
Prior to 1999 in California, counsellors who specialised in this area were called Marriage, Family and Child Counsellors. Today, they are known as Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT), and work variously in private practice, in clinical settings such as hospitals, institutions, or counselling organisations.
Marriage and family therapists in the United States and Canada often seek degrees from accredited Masters or Doctoral programmes recognised by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), a division of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.
Requirements vary, but in most states about 3,000 hours of supervised work as an intern are needed to sit for a licensing exam. MFTs must be licensed by the state to practice. Only after completing their education and internship and passing the state licensing exam can a person call themselves a Marital and Family Therapist and work unsupervised.
License restrictions can vary considerably from state to state. Contact information about licensing boards in the United States are provided by the Association of Marital and Family Regulatory Boards.
There have been concerns raised within the profession about the fact that specialist training in couples therapy – as distinct from family therapy in general – is not required to gain a license as an MFT or membership of the main professional body, the AAMFT.
Values and Ethics
Since issues of interpersonal conflict, power, control, values, and ethics are often more pronounced in relationship therapy than in individual therapy, there has been debate within the profession about the different values that are implicit in the various theoretical models of therapy and the role of the therapist’s own values in the therapeutic process, and how prospective clients should best go about finding a therapist whose values and objectives are most consistent with their own. An early paper on ethics in family therapy written by Vincenzo Di Nicola in consultation with a bioethicist asked basic questions about whether strategic interventions “mean what they say” and if it is ethical to invent opinions offered to families about the treatment process, such as statements saying that half of the treatment team believes one thing and half believes another. Specific issues that have emerged have included an increasing questioning of the longstanding notion of therapeutic neutrality, a concern with questions of justice and self-determination, connectedness and independence, “functioning” versus “authenticity”, and questions about the degree of the therapist’s “pro-marriage/family” versus “pro-individual” commitment.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy requires members to adhere to a “Code of Ethics”, including a commitment to “continue therapeutic relationships only so long as it is reasonably clear that clients are benefiting from the relationship.”
Founders and Key Influences
Some key developers of family therapy are:
Alfred Adler (individual psychology).
Nathan Ackerman (psychoanalytic).
Tom Andersen (reflecting practices and dialogues about dialogues).
Harlene Anderson (postmodern collaborative therapy and Collaborative Language Systems).
Maurizio Andolfi (interactional, integrative, multigenerational, and relational family therapy).
Harry J Aponte (Person-of-the-Therapist).
Jack A. Apsche (family mode deactivation therapy, FMDT).
Gregory Bateson (1904–1980) (cybernetics, systems theory).
Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy (contextual therapy, intergenerational, relational ethics).
Murray Bowen (systems theory, intergenerational).
Steve de Shazer (solution focused therapy).
Vincenzo Di Nicola (cultural family therapy).
Milton H. Erickson (hypnotherapy, strategic therapy, brief therapy).
Richard Fisch (brief therapy, strategic therapy).
James Framo (object relations theory, intergenerational, family-of-origin therapy).
Edwin Friedman (family process in religious congregations).
Harry Goolishian (postmodern collaborative therapy and collaborative language systems).
John Gottman (marriage).
Robert-Jay Green (LGBT, cross-cultural issues).
Douglas Haldane (Attachment-based couple therapist).
The Bateson Project (1953-1963) was the name given to a ground-breaking collaboration organised by Gregory Bateson which was responsible for some of the most important papers and innovations in communication and psychotherapy in the 1950s and early 1960s. Its other members were Donald deAvila Jackson, Jay Haley, John Weakland, and Bill Fry.
Perhaps their most famous and influential publication was Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia (1956), which introduced the concept of the Double Bind, and helped found Family Therapy.
One of the project’s first locations was the Menlo Park VA Hospital, which was chosen because of Bateson’s previous work there as an ethnologist. The initial research, which was funded by a Rockefeller grant, focused on “strange communication” and nonsensical language among the patients of the institution who were suffering from schizophrenia. The group studied this within the context of double bind communication in family dynamics.
It looks at specific, learned behaviours and how the environment, or other people’s mental states, influences those behaviours, and consists of techniques based on learning theory, such as respondent or operant conditioning. Behaviourists who practice these techniques are either behaviour analysts or cognitive-behavioural therapists. They tend to look for treatment outcomes that are objectively measurable. Behaviour therapy does not involve one specific method but it has a wide range of techniques that can be used to treat a person’s psychological problems.
Behavioural psychotherapy is sometimes juxtaposed with cognitive psychotherapy, while cognitive behavioural therapy integrates aspects of both approaches, such as cognitive restructuring, positive reinforcement, habituation (or desensitisation), counterconditioning, and modelling.
Applied behaviour analysis (ABA) is the application of behaviour analysis that focuses on functionally assessing how behaviour is influenced by the observable learning environment and how to change such behaviour through contingency management or exposure therapies, which are used throughout clinical behaviour analysis therapies or other interventions based on the same learning principles.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy views cognition and emotions as preceding overt behaviour and implements treatment plans in psychotherapy to lessen the issue by managing competing thoughts and emotions, often in conjunction with behavioural learning principles.
A 2013 Cochrane review comparing behaviour therapies to psychological therapies found them to be equally effective, although at the time the evidence base that evaluates the benefits and harms of behaviour therapies was felt to be weak.
Precursors of certain fundamental aspects of behaviour therapy have been identified in various ancient philosophical traditions, particularly Stoicism. For example, Wolpe and Lazarus wrote,
While the modern behavior therapist deliberately applies principles of learning to this therapeutic operations, empirical behavior therapy is probably as old as civilization – if we consider civilization as having started when man first did things to further the well-being of other men. From the time that this became a feature of human life there must have been occasions when a man complained of his ills to another who advised or persuaded him of a course of action. In a broad sense, this could be called behavior therapy whenever the behavior itself was conceived as the therapeutic agent. Ancient writings contain innumerable behavioral prescriptions that accord with this broad conception of behavior therapy.
The first use of the term behaviour modification appears to have been by Edward Thorndike in 1911. His article Provisional Laws of Acquired Behaviour or Learning makes frequent use of the term “modifying behaviour”. Through early research in the 1940s and the 1950s the term was used by Joseph Wolpe’s research group. The experimental tradition in clinical psychology used it to refer to psycho-therapeutic techniques derived from empirical research. It has since come to refer mainly to techniques for increasing adaptive behaviour through reinforcement and decreasing maladaptive behaviour through extinction or punishment (with emphasis on the former). Two related terms are behaviour therapy and applied behaviour analysis. Since techniques derived from behavioural psychology tend to be the most effective in altering behaviour, most practitioners consider behaviour modification along with behaviour therapy and applied behaviour analysis to be founded in behaviourism. While behaviour modification and applied behaviour analysis typically uses interventions based on the same behavioural principles, many behaviour modifiers who are not applied behaviour analysts tend to use packages of interventions and do not conduct functional assessments before intervening.
Possibly the first occurrence of the term “behaviour therapy” was in a 1953 research project by B.F. Skinner, Ogden Lindsley, Nathan Azrin and Harry C. Solomon. The paper talked about operant conditioning and how it could be used to help improve the functioning of people who were diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia. Early pioneers in behaviour therapy include Joseph Wolpe and Hans Eysenck.
In general, behaviour therapy is seen as having three distinct points of origin: South Africa (Wolpe’s group), The United States (Skinner), and the United Kingdom (Rachman and Eysenck). Each had its own distinct approach to viewing behaviour problems. Eysenck in particular viewed behaviour problems as an interplay between personality characteristics, environment, and behaviour. Skinner’s group in the United States took more of an operant conditioning focus. The operant focus created a functional approach to assessment and interventions focused on contingency management such as the token economy and behavioural activation. Skinner’s student Ogden Lindsley is credited with forming a movement called precision teaching, which developed a particular type of graphing programme called the standard celeration chart to monitor the progress of clients. Skinner became interested in the individualising of programs for improved learning in those with or without disabilities and worked with Fred S. Keller to develop programmed instruction. Programmed instruction had some clinical success in aphasia rehabilitation. Gerald Patterson used programme instruction to develop his parenting text for children with conduct problems. With age, respondent conditioning appears to slow but operant conditioning remains relatively stable. While the concept had its share of advocates and critics in the west, its introduction in the Asian setting, particularly in India in the early 1970s and its grand success were testament to the famous Indian psychologist H. Narayan Murthy’s enduring commitment to the principles of behavioural therapy and biofeedback.
While many behaviour therapists remain staunchly committed to the basic operant and respondent paradigm, in the second half of the 20th century, many therapists coupled behaviour therapy with the cognitive therapy, of Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis, and Donald Meichenbaum to form cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). In some areas the cognitive component had an additive effect (for example, evidence suggests that cognitive interventions improve the result of social phobia treatment) but in other areas it did not enhance the treatment, which led to the pursuit of third generation behaviour therapies. Third generation behaviour therapy uses basic principles of operant and respondent psychology but couples them with functional analysis and a clinical formulation/case conceptualisation of verbal behaviour more inline with view of the behaviour analysts. Some research supports these therapies as being more effective in some cases than cognitive therapy, but overall the question is still in need of answers.
The behavioural approach to therapy assumes that behaviour that is associated with psychological problems develops through the same processes of learning that affects the development of other behaviours. Therefore, behaviourists see personality problems in the way that personality was developed. They do not look at behaviour disorders as something a person has, but consider that it reflects how learning has influenced certain people to behave in a certain way in certain situations.
Behaviour therapy is based upon the principles of classical conditioning developed by Ivan Pavlov and operant conditioning developed by B.F. Skinner. Classical conditioning happens when a neutral stimulus comes right before another stimulus that triggers a reflexive response. The idea is that if the neutral stimulus and whatever other stimulus that triggers a response is paired together often enough that the neutral stimulus will produce the reflexive response. Operant conditioning has to do with rewards and punishments and how they can either strengthen or weaken certain behaviours.
Contingency management programmes are a direct product of research from operant conditioning.
Behavioural therapy based on operant and respondent principles has considerable evidence base to support its usage. This approach remains a vital area of clinical psychology and is often termed clinical behaviour analysis. Behavioural psychotherapy has become increasingly contextual in recent years. Behavioural psychotherapy has developed greater interest in recent years in personality disorders as well as a greater focus on acceptance and complex case conceptualisations.
Functional Analytic Psychotherapy
One current form of behavioural psychotherapy is functional analytic psychotherapy. Functional analytic psychotherapy is a longer duration behaviour therapy. Functional analytic therapy focuses on in-session use of reinforcement and is primarily a relationally-based therapy. As with most of the behavioural psychotherapies, functional analytic psychotherapy is contextual in its origins and nature. and draws heavily on radical behaviourism and functional contextualism.
Functional analytic psychotherapy holds to a process model of research, which makes it unique compared to traditional behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Functional analytic psychotherapy has a strong research support. Recent functional analytic psychotherapy research efforts are focusing on management of aggressive inpatients.
Behaviour therapists complete a functional analysis or a functional assessment that looks at four important areas: stimulus, organism, response and consequences. The stimulus is the condition or environmental trigger that causes behaviour. An organism involves the internal responses of a person, like physiological responses, emotions and cognition. A response is the behaviour that a person exhibits and the consequences are the result of the behaviour. These four things are incorporated into an assessment done by the behaviour therapist.
Most behaviour therapists use objective assessment methods like structured interviews, objective psychological tests or different behavioural rating forms. These types of assessments are used so that the behaviour therapist can determine exactly what a client’s problem may be and establish a baseline for any maladaptive responses that the client may have. By having this baseline, as therapy continues this same measure can be used to check a client’s progress, which can help determine if the therapy is working. Behaviour therapists do not typically ask the why questions but tend to be more focused on the how, when, where and what questions. Tests such as the Rorschach inkblot test or personality tests like the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) are not commonly used for behavioural assessment because they are based on personality trait theory assuming that a person’s answer to these methods can predict behaviour. Behaviour assessment is more focused on the observations of a persons behaviour in their natural environment.
Behavioural assessment specifically attempts to find out what the environmental and self-imposed variables are. These variables are the things that are allowing a person to maintain their maladaptive feelings, thoughts and behaviours. In a behavioural assessment “person variables” are also considered. These “person variables” come from a person’s social learning history and they affect the way in which the environment affects that person’s behaviour. An example of a person variable would be behavioural competence. Behavioural competence looks at whether a person has the appropriate skills and behaviours that are necessary when performing a specific response to a certain situation or stimuli.
When making a behavioural assessment the behaviour therapist wants to answer two questions:
What are the different factors (environmental or psychological) that are maintaining the maladaptive behaviour; and
What type of behaviour therapy or technique that can help the individual improve most effectively.
The first question involves looking at all aspects of a person, which can be summed up by the acronym BASIC ID. This acronym stands for behaviour, affective responses, sensory reactions, imagery, cognitive processes, interpersonal relationships and drug use.
Behaviour therapy based its core interventions on functional analysis. Just a few of the many problems that behaviour therapy have functionally analysed include intimacy in couples relationships, forgiveness in couples, chronic pain, stress-related behaviour problems of being an adult child of a person with an alcohol use disorder, anorexia, chronic distress, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, insomnia and obesity.
Functional analysis has even been applied to problems that therapists commonly encounter like client resistance, partially engaged clients and involuntary clients. Applications to these problems have left clinicians with considerable tools for enhancing therapeutic effectiveness. One way to enhance therapeutic effectiveness is to use positive reinforcement or operant conditioning. Although behaviour therapy is based on the general learning model, it can be applied in a lot of different treatment packages that can be specifically developed to deal with problematic behaviours. Some of the more well known types of treatments are: Relaxation training, systematic desensitisation, virtual reality exposure, exposure and response prevention techniques, social skills training, modelling, behavioural rehearsal and homework, and aversion therapy and punishment.
Relaxation training involves clients learning to lower arousal to reduce their stress by tensing and releasing certain muscle groups throughout their body. Systematic desensitisation is a treatment in which the client slowly substitutes a new learned response for a maladaptive response by moving up a hierarchy of situations involving fear. Systematic desensitisation is based in part on counter conditioning. Counter conditioning is learning new ways to change one response for another and in the case of desensitisation it is substituting that maladaptive behaviour for a more relaxing behaviour. Exposure and response prevention techniques (also known as flooding and response prevention) is the general technique in which a therapist exposes an individual to anxiety-provoking stimuli while keeping them from having any avoidance responses.
Virtual reality therapy provides realistic, computer-based simulations of troublesome situations. The modelling process involves a person being subjected to watching other individuals who demonstrate behaviour that is considered adaptive and that should be adopted by the client. This exposure involves not only the cues of the “model person” as well as the situations of a certain behaviour that way the relationship can be seen between the appropriateness of a certain behaviour and situation in which that behaviour occurs is demonstrated. With the behavioural rehearsal and homework treatment a client gets a desired behaviour during a therapy session and then they practice and record that behaviour between their sessions. Aversion therapy and punishment is a technique in which an aversive (painful or unpleasant) stimulus is used to decrease unwanted behaviours from occurring. It is concerned with two procedures:
The procedures are used to decrease the likelihood of the frequency of a certain behaviour; and
Procedures that will reduce the attractiveness of certain behaviours and the stimuli that elicit them.
The punishment side of aversion therapy is when an aversive stimulus is presented at the same time that a negative stimulus and then they are stopped at the same time when a positive stimulus or response is presented. Examples of the type of negative stimulus or punishment that can be used is shock therapy treatments, aversive drug treatments as well as response cost contingent punishment which involves taking away a reward.
Applied behaviour analysis is using behavioural methods to modify certain behaviours that are seen as being important socially or personally. There are four main characteristics of applied behaviour analysis:
First behaviour analysis is focused mainly on overt behaviours in an applied setting.
Treatments are developed as a way to alter the relationship between those overt behaviours and their consequences.
Another characteristic of applied behaviour analysis is how it (behaviour analysis) goes about evaluating treatment effects.
The individual subject is where the focus of study is on, the investigation is centred on the one individual being treated.
A third characteristic is that it focuses on what the environment does to cause significant behaviour changes.
Finally the last characteristic of applied behaviour analysis is the use of those techniques that stem from operant and classical conditioning such as providing reinforcement, punishment, stimulus control and any other learning principles that may apply.
Social skills training teaches clients skills to access reinforcers and lessen life punishment. Operant conditioning procedures in meta-analysis had the largest effect size for training social skills, followed by modelling, coaching, and social cognitive techniques in that order. Social skills training has some empirical support particularly for schizophrenia. However, with schizophrenia, behavioural programmes have generally lost favour.
Some other techniques that have been used in behaviour therapy are contingency contracting, response costs, token economies, biofeedback, and using shaping and grading task assignments.
Shaping and graded task assignments are used when behaviour that needs to be learned is complex. The complex behaviours that need to be learned are broken down into simpler steps where the person can achieve small things gradually building up to the more complex behaviour. Each step approximates the eventual goal and helps the person to expand their activities in a gradual way. This behaviour is used when a person feels that something in their lives can not be changed and life’s tasks appear to be overwhelming.
Another technique of behaviour therapy involves holding a client or patient accountable of their behaviours in an effort to change them. This is called a contingency contract, which is a formal written contract between two or more people that defines the specific expected behaviours that you wish to change and the rewards and punishments that go along with that behaviour. In order for a contingency contract to be official it needs to have five elements. First it must state what each person will get if they successfully complete the desired behaviour. Secondly those people involved have to monitor the behaviours. Third, if the desired behaviour is not being performed in the way that was agreed upon in the contract the punishments that were defined in the contract must be done. Fourth if the persons involved are complying with the contract they must receive bonuses. The last element involves documenting the compliance and noncompliance while using this treatment in order to give the persons involved consistent feedback about the target behaviour and the provision of reinforcers.
Token economies is a behaviour therapy technique where clients are reinforced with tokens that are considered a type of currency that can be used to purchase desired rewards, like being able to watch television or getting a snack that they want when they perform designated behaviours. Token economies are mainly used in institutional and therapeutic settings. In order for a token economy to be effective there must be consistency in administering the program by the entire staff. Procedures must be clearly defined so that there is no confusion among the clients. Instead of looking for ways to punish the patients or to deny them of rewards, the staff has to reinforce the positive behaviours so that the clients will increase the occurrence of the desired behaviour. Over time the tokens need to be replaced with less tangible rewards such as compliments so that the client will be prepared when they leave the institution and won’t expect to get something every time they perform a desired behaviour.
Closely related to token economies is a technique called response costs. This technique can either be used with or without token economies. Response costs is the punishment side of token economies where there is a loss of a reward or privilege after someone performs an undesirable behaviour. Like token economies this technique is used mainly in institutional and therapeutic settings.
Considerable policy implications have been inspired by behavioural views of various forms of psychopathology. One form of behaviour therapy, habit reversal training, has been found to be highly effective for treating tics.
Currently, there is a greater call for behavioural psychologists to be involved in rehabilitation efforts.
Treatment of Mental Disorders
Two large studies done by the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University indicates that both behaviour therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) are equally effective for OCD. CBT has been shown to perform slightly better at treating co-occurring depression.
Considerable policy implications have been inspired by behavioural views of various forms of psychopathology. One form of behaviour therapy (habit reversal training) has been found to be highly effective for treating tics.
There has been a development towards combining techniques to treat psychiatric disorders. Cognitive interventions are used to enhance the effects of more established behavioural interventions based on operant and classical conditioning. An increased effort has also been placed to address the interpersonal context of behaviour.
Behaviour therapy can be applied to a number of mental disorders and in many cases is more effective for specific disorders as compared to others. Behaviour therapy techniques can be used to deal with any phobias that a person may have. Desensitisation has also been applied to other issues such as dealing with anger, if a person has trouble sleeping and certain speech disorders. Desensitisation does not occur over night, there is a process of treatment. Desensitisation is done on a hierarchy and happens over a number of sessions. The hierarchy goes from situations that make a person less anxious or nervous up to things that are considered to be extreme for the patient.
Modelling has been used in dealing with fears and phobias. Modelling has been used in the treatment of fear of snakes as well as a fear of water.
Aversive therapy techniques have been used to treat sexual deviations as well as alcohol use disorder.
Exposure and prevention procedure techniques can be used to treat people who have anxiety problems as well as any fears or phobias. These procedures have also been used to help people dealing with any anger issues as well as pathological grievers (people who have distressing thoughts about a deceased person).
Virtual reality therapy deals with fear of heights, fear of flying, and a variety of other anxiety disorders. VRT has also been applied to help people with substance abuse problems reduce their responsiveness to certain cues that trigger their need to use drugs.
Shaping and graded task assignments has been used in dealing with suicide and depressed or inhibited individuals. This is used when a patient feel hopeless and they have no way of changing their lives. This hopelessness involves how the person reacts and responds to someone else and certain situations and their perceived powerlessness to change that situation that adds to the hopelessness. For a person with suicidal ideation, it is important to start with small steps. Because that person may perceive everything as being a big step, the smaller you start the easier it will be for the person to master each step. This technique has also been applied to people dealing with agoraphobia, or fear of being in public places or doing something embarrassing.
Contingency contracting has been used to deal with behaviour problems in delinquents and when dealing with on task behaviours in students.
Token economies are used in controlled environments and are found mostly in psychiatric hospitals. They can be used to help patients with different mental illnesses but it doesn’t focus on the treatment of the mental illness but instead on the behavioural aspects of a patient. The response cost technique has been used to address a variety of behaviours such as smoking, overeating, stuttering, and psychotic talk.
Systematic desensitisation has been shown to successfully treat phobias about heights, driving, insects as well as any anxiety that a person may have. Anxiety can include social anxiety, anxiety about public speaking as well as test anxiety. It has been shown that the use of systematic desensitisation is an effective technique that can be applied to a number of problems that a person may have.
When using modelling procedures this technique is often compared to another behavioural therapy technique. When compared to desensitisation, the modelling technique does appear to be less effective. However it is clear that the greater the interaction between the patient and the subject he is modelling the greater the effectiveness of the treatment.
While undergoing exposure therapy, a person typically needs five sessions to assess the treatment’s effectiveness. After five sessions, exposure treatment has been shown to provide benefit to the patient. However, it is still recommended treatment continue beyond the initial five sessions.
Virtual reality therapy (VRT) has shown to be effective for a fear of heights. It has also been shown to help with the treatment of a variety of anxiety disorders. Due to the costs associated with VRT, therapists are still awaiting results of controlled trials investigating VRT, to assess which applications demonstrate the best results.
For those with suicidal ideation, treatment depends on how severe the person’s depression and sense of hopelessness is. If these things are severe, the person’s response to completing small steps will not be of importance to them, because they don’t consider the success an accomplishment. Generally, in those not suffering from severe depression or fear, this technique has been successful, as completion of simpler activities builds their confidences and allows them to progress to more complex situations.
Contingency contracts have been seen to be effective in changing any undesired behaviours of individuals. It has been seen to be effective in treating behaviour problems in delinquents regardless of the specific characteristics of the contract.
Token economies have been shown to be effective when treating patients in psychiatric wards who had chronic schizophrenia. The results showed that the contingent tokens were controlling the behaviour of the patients.
Response costs has been shown to work in suppressing a variety of behaviours such as smoking, overeating or stuttering with a diverse group of clinical populations ranging from sociopaths to school children. These behaviours that have been suppressed using this technique often do not recover when the punishment contingency is withdrawn. Also undesirable side effects that are usually seen with punishment are not typically found when using the response cost technique.
The third-generation behaviour therapy movement has been called clinical behaviour analysis because it represents a movement away from cognitivism and back toward radical behaviourism and other forms of behaviourism, in particular functional analysis and behavioural models of verbal behaviour. This area includes acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioural analysis system of psychotherapy (CBASP), behavioural activation (BA), dialectical behavioural therapy, functional analytic psychotherapy (FAP), integrative behavioural couples therapy, metacognitive therapy and metacognitive training. These approaches are squarely within the applied behaviour analysis tradition of behaviour therapy.
ACT may be the most well-researched of all the third-generation behaviour therapy models. It is based on relational frame theory. Other authors object to the term “third generation” or “third wave” and incorporate many of the “third wave” therapeutic techniques under the general umbrella term of modern cognitive behavioural therapies.
Functional analytic psychotherapy is based on a functional analysis of the therapeutic relationship. It places a greater emphasis on the therapeutic context and returns to the use of in-session reinforcement. In general, 40 years of research supports the idea that in-session reinforcement of behaviour can lead to behavioural change.
Behavioural activation emerged from a component analysis of cognitive behaviour therapy. This research found no additive effect for the cognitive component. Behavioural activation is based on a matching model of reinforcement. A recent review of the research, supports the notion that the use of behavioural activation is clinically important for the treatment of depression.
Integrative behavioural couples therapy developed from dissatisfaction with traditional behavioural couples therapy. Integrative behavioural couples therapy looks to Skinner (1969) for the difference between contingency-shaped and rule-governed behaviour. It couples this analysis with a thorough functional assessment of the couple’s relationship. Recent efforts have used radical behavioural concepts to interpret a number of clinical phenomena including forgiveness.
Many organisations exist for behaviour therapists around the world. In the United States, the American Psychological Association’s Division 25 is the division for behaviour analysis. The Association for Contextual Behaviour Therapy is another professional organisation. ACBS is home to many clinicians with specific interest in third generation behaviour therapy. Doctoral-level behaviour analysts who are psychologists belong to American Psychological Association’s division 25 – Behaviour analysis. APA offers a diploma in behavioural psychology.
The Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (formerly the Association for the Advancement of Behaviour Therapy) is for those with a more cognitive orientation. The ABCT also has an interest group in behaviour analysis, which focuses on clinical behaviour analysis. In addition, the Association for Behavioural an Cognitive Therapies has a special interest group on addictions.
By nature, behavioural therapies are empirical (data-driven), contextual (focused on the environment and context), functional (interested in the effect or consequence a behaviour ultimately has), probabilistic (viewing behaviour as statistically predictable), monistic (rejecting mind–body dualism and treating the person as a unit), and relational (analysing bidirectional interactions).
Behavioural therapy develops, adds and provides behavioural intervention strategies and programs for clients, and training to people who care to facilitate successful lives in the communities.
Recent efforts in behavioural psychotherapy have focused on the supervision process. A key point of behavioural models of supervision is that the supervisory process parallels the behavioural psychotherapy.
Clinical behaviour analysis.
Exposure and response prevention.
Habit reversal training.
Professional practice of behaviour analysis.
Skinner, B.F. (1969). Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Meredith Corporation.