Definitions // Fred Levin's Psychotherapy Newsletter


biological approaches to psychotherapy - In contrast to insight-oriented approaches, biological approaches usually involve (but are not limited to) the use of medications to deal with mental illness. Some specialists who favor this approach generally do not also employ insight-oriented approaches at all; others, however, employ medication together with insight-oriented approaches to psychotherapy simultaneously. An example of a biological approach would be if a patient is depressed the therapist may prescribe antidepressant medication. In some centers, the use of medication is felt to be sufficient by itself. In other centers, the medication is merely seen as useful in reducing the intensity of a key symptom, while creating a "window of opportunity" for learning during which the patient can come to understand a lot which may reduce the chances of their becoming depressed again to the same degree. Biological therapists are almost always M.D.'s who have the training and hence the privilege to prescribe and monitor medication.
 
group psychotherapy - A treatment approach in which the therapist meets with more than one patient at the same time. In the case of family (group) psychotherapy the patients will be members of one family. In the case of couples (group) psychotherapy the patients will be married to each other. The group therapist discusses with those in the group what they understand to be their problems, which are usually then understood in terms of the various relationships within the group. This approach can be independent of any other psychotherapy, or it may be used to compliment work done simultaneously individually. Group therapists are not required to but should have received training in group psychotherapy during a residency or internship training program connected with a major teaching hospital (that is, one connected with a medical school).
 
individual psychotherapy - A treatment mode for mental illness in which the psychotherapist meets with a single patient for private sessions. These sessions usually last 45 minutes, occur once or twice per week, and involve listening and talking to each other about what is bothering the patient. Together, the therapist and patient decide what they feel to be the patient's problems, and what would be the best way to deal with these matters. Periodically they will assess the effects of their work to decide if it is accomplishing their treatment goals, and to further focus their discussions. Individual therapists have usually graduated from a specialty training program in psychiatry, psychology, or social work.
 
insight-oriented psychotherapy - An individual treatment mode for mental illness that can be used easily along with a variety of other approaches (biological, family, group, etc.). This involves attempting to understand the patient as a person, who has various private feelings and experiences, wishes or motivations, fears, etc. which may be in conflict, or problematic. Sessions last 45 minutes, and are once or twice per week (the exception being psychoanalysis, see below) The key idea is that our emotional development is a result of experiential and genetic (or inbuilt) factors. It is possible for us to reduce our mental suffering by learning as much as possible about what creates mental problems in ourselves. Insight-oriented psychotherapists take the time to work individually with patients often for longer time periods, and have training in psychiatry, psychology, or social work. The most intensive kind of such therapy is psychoanalysis.
 
psychoanalysis - This variety of insight-oriented individual therapy is more intensive than the usual psychotherapy because it most often involves meeting with a specially trained therapist (called a psychoanalyst) 4 days a week for 3-6 years. Sessions are usually 45 minutes long. Psychoanalysts have not only undergone a personal psychoanalysis, as part of their training, but have graduated from an Institute for Psychoanalytic Training certified by one of the National or International Organizations of Psychoanalysis. Such specialists are already M.D. or Ph.D. level specialists. Such treatment can accomplish changes which might not be possible by any other means. Lost cost psychoanalysis is also available through the clinics of the various Institutes of the American Psychoanalytic Association (see links).
 
psychotherapy - The general term for treatment approaches to mental illness. There are a number of varieties which include individual, group, insight-oriented, supportive, and biological approaches. Most of these terms are defined above. But the key feature of them all is that they involve some attempt to understand and alter mental illness. What differs are what is kept in focus during treatment. Sessions are usually once or twice per week and last for 45 minutes. In exclusively biological approaches the sessions are much shorter.

Fred Levin's Psychotherapy Newsletter | Chicago Psychoanalytic Society