Psychotherapy v drugs: Is Psychotherapy the unsung hero?

APA research benefits of Psychotherapy

A summary of research carried out by the American Psychological Association (APA), reviewing the use and benefits of Psychotherapy posted on the BPS website (posted 24/08/2012) provides an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge of approaches to explaining and treating psychopathology.

The BPS summary included a comment from Chartered Psychologist Professor Peter Kinderman (University of Liverpool) arguing the case for taking a psychological approach rather than a biological approach to understanding and treating mental health problems.

This brief summary has the potential to support learning and teaching of broad issues such as the medicalisation of “abnormal” behaviour (relevant in AS and in particular A2 studies; Unit 2, Psychopathology; Unit 4, Psychopathology), approaches in Psychology as well as methodological issues that arise when conducting research into the effectiveness and efficacy of therapies (e.g. operationalising effectiveness, the impact of other treatments regarding the validity etc.).

Outcomes of the research in brief

The APA reported that the use of Psychotherapy for mental health issues has declined over the last 10 years in the US, whereas the prescription of drugs to manage mental health issues has increased over this time. The study is reported to have revealed that Psychotherapy has long term health benefits and that these sorts of therapies represent a more cost effective option than drug therapies when helping those with mental health problems.

In the A Level Psychology classroom

Here is a suggestion of how to turn this post into a classroom resource…

Ask students to read the post (the summary on the BPS site is sufficient) and ask them the following questions. The depth of discussion is likely to depend on whether this is used with AS or A2 students.

  1. What does Prof Kinderman mean by medicalisation?
  2. Why do you think drug therapy has increased and psychotherapy has decreased (in the US)?
  3. What would you want to know about the review of literature to agree with the comment made by Prof Kinderman that Psychotherapy should be favoured over medical treatments?
  4. Ask students to write a response to the professor’s comment, from a biological perspective arguing why it is appropriate to take a biological approach to understanding and treating psychopathology.

As the report is not disorder specific this resource and the issues it raises can be made relevant in any discussion of mental health. In fact the broadness of the review highlights that the issues raised by this research, and any issues with the research, are broad psychology/psychopathology-wide issues, helping to reinforce the need to be synoptic.


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