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Steven Olsen, Therapist
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Describe the psychological model of mental illness. Explain

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Describe the psychological model of mental illness. Explain how the psychological model can clarify our understanding of mental illness.

Choose two types of psychotherapies and compare their strengths and weaknesses. Describe the types of mental illnesses that are best treated using the types of psychotherapies you chose. Explain why some therapies are more suited for a particular type of mental illness.

What are phobias? how do they differ from panic disorder? what are the two leading suggested causes of phobias? Explain on the basis of what you learned from your readings and watching the videos.
What was similar between the person with the fear of heights (acrophobia) and the person with the fear of spiders (arachnophobia)? What was different in their levels of fear?
Before behavior therapies, what type of therapy was used for the treatment of phobias? Why was is used? Explain on the basis of what you learned from your readings and watching the videos.
Explain the similarities and differences of exposure therapy, virtual reality therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy as they were used in reducing the fears exhibited in the videos and based upon your readings. Do you think virtual reality therapy would have been as successful with Albert? Why or Why not? Explain your answer.

Let's look at these one at a time:


The psychological model of mental illness looks at the effects of mental illness on the person and his/her functioning.


It is concerned with three major aspects:

  1. Is the person experiencing any degree of emotional or physical distress as a result of the symptoms?
  2. Is the person's life changed due to the inefficiencies that resulted from the mental illness. eg. they are so busy thinking about germs and then hand washing those germs away that they are late to work.
  3. Lastly, are they able to act in a way that is productive, communicative and healthy with others? Simply, the person is not bizarre or unusual to the pint were others cannot relate to them?


Two types of therapies: Client Centered and Rational Emotive: Client Centered Therapies focus on the inherent wellness of people. The assumption is that people are born psychologically healthy and have a tendency to revert to that state if given an accepting and unconditional environment in which to grow. Therapy is non-directive and is focused on understanding, clarifying and emotionally reflecting the client's feelings.


Its main belief is that the client takes therapy at his/her own speed and naturally will recover at his/her own rate if given acceptance and unconditional regard. (non judgment)


Rational Emotive Therapy believes that feelings are ancillary to rational thought and that clients can be directed to healthy thinking by the therapist. Rational thinking and challenging irrational thoughts are a primary mode of therapy.


Clients do well with both types of therapy, but both styles are limited.


Client centered work depends a great deal on the communication ability of the client. Highly verbal clients often do well with this type of therapy where depressed clients do not. Rational therapies can be too directive and leading and clients who need to express feelings and emotions that resulted from trauma sometimes find this method too cold and distant. Many women find pure rational therapy styles to be far too blunt when practiced in its pure form.


Phobias are fears that exceed a reaction which would be considered normal. eg W While spiders could be dangerous in certain situations, always avoiding going into a basement for fear of seeing one might be a phobic reaction.


Both fears of spiders and heights show irrational levels of fears for the circumstances and both will show avoiding behaviors of those stimuli. No one with a phobia seeks out more of the fear source intentionally.


Psychoanalytic therapy was used to assist people with phobias prior to behaviorally based styles. The goal was to discover the real source of the phobia as it was thought the phobia symbolized the real fear. Fear of thunder might be a fear of an alcoholic father's rage for example. Treating the thunder phobia would be useless from this viewpoint as the real issue is an unresolved conflict with father.


Little Albert (which is the boy with the phobia of Rats if this is the same example as is used in most psychology texts) in theory, could have been helped by any of the theories mentioned as long as he was given an opportunity to associate his fear of white rats with a new feeling, such as joy, confidence, etc.


Exposure therapy would seek to reduce Albert's anxiety via slowly introducing similar stimuli to him, and then associating a relaxed state with it. CBT would look at Albert's thoughts and assist him to see that his thinking was unproductive and to associate new thoughts and actions with the rat. VRT would use virtual stimuli to reduce anxiety, much as is done for people afraid to fly. All could work, but Exposure therapy, developed by Wolpe, has the best odds statistically for resolution of Albert's issues. Steven



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