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					          MODELS OF MENTAL ILLNESS

Model – a schematic representation of how we think
an event takes place; like a blueprint for a
psychological event.

True for all models…
1) they are based on assumptions; your model is only
as good as the assumptions it is built on, so it is
always important to be skeptical and question those
assumptions!;

2) there is no ‘true’ or ‘correct’ model for any one
phenomenon; all have strengths and weaknesses. In
psychological research, we collect evidence for
models so that we can rule out the least likely and
focus on the most likely.

 BIOLOGICAL TRADITION: MEDICAL MODEL M.D.’s
Based on the assumption that mental illness can be
viewed as a disease brought about by a
malfunctioning part of the individual (chemical or
anatomical defect in the brain).
Treatments = medication, surgery (in rare cases)




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Strengths – Medical Model
1) Some disorders can be almost completely
alleviated with medications, which suggests a
biological basis for the disorder (e.g., bipolar
disorder a.k.a. manic depression treated with
lithium).
2) We have evidence that a few disorders are caused
entirely by physical illness (e.g., PANDAS in
children).
Weaknesses – Medical Model
1) Reductionist view - belief that all disorders can be
reduced to simple biological problems, without
giving any weight to environmental factors.
2) Symptoms viewed as causal factors and are
treated; yet it is also possible that symptoms could
be a result of the disorder rather than a cause.
3) Side effects of medications can be as severe as
the illnesses they are supposed to be alleviating!
(e.g., neuroleptics used to treat schizophrenia 
Parkinsonian symptoms such as tremor).
4) No experience of self-growth or self-understanding
on the part of the afflicted individual.
5) Error in logic: since certain drugs work for
treating certain disorders, the disorder must caused
by a lack of that drug in the body (headache/aspirin
analogy).
6) Some psychoactive drugs are habit forming; many
people do not want to feel dependent on a
medication for daily functioning.

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           PSYCHOLOGICAL TRADITION:
         PSYCHODYNAMIC MODEL – M.D.’s
All behavior determined by underlying psychological
forces or unconscious conflicts of which the person
is unaware (most pertained to sexual concerns).

Treatment = making the unconscious conscious
through intensive disclosure by the patient and
eventual interpretation by an analyst; an
interpretation can take years to formulate.

Strengths – Psychodynamic Model
1) Psychodynamic theories have opened minds to
causes of mental illness other than biological.
2) Led to the design of many current therapeutic
techniques, some of which are effective.




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Weaknesses – Psychodynamic Model
There are many criticisms of psychodynamic theory,
but the main ones are:
1) There is no basis in science or empirical data to
support Freud’s models, furthermore humans and
their impulses are viewed as basically ‘evil’.
(also note that Freud was a heavy user of cocaine
and tended to periodically retract his models).
2) Under this model, behavior is first observed, then
then interpreted, while a more scientific approach
would be to predict and then observe.
3) The model is culture-bound, and was developed in
a certain time with a certain population – upper class
Vienna.
4) The use of the ‘clinical child’ in the development of
this model is problematic (adults who are reflecting
on their childhood, rather than children in the midst
of traumatic events).
5) Treatment takes years, is supposed to take place
on a daily basis and is very expensive.

Neo Freudians, Humanistic Approach




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  PSYCHOLOGICAL TRADITION: THE BEHAVIORAL
            MODEL – Ph.D.’s, a few M.D.’s
The behavioral model is based on the assumption
that we learn abnormal behaviors just like we learn to
tie our shoes or drive a car.
Treatment = recognizing and modifying harmful
patterns of behavior.

Abnormal behaviors can be learned through:
-classical or Pavlovian conditioning (Conditioned
Stimulus + Unconditioned Stimulus + Conditioned
Response);
-instrumental or operant conditioning
(behaviorreward or avoid punishment);
-through social learning and modeling (learning
through observing or ‘referencing’ others).

Strengths of Behavioral Model-
1) This model allows us to design effective, short-
term therapy techniques.
2) Behavioral theories are strongly supported by
decades of research.


Weaknesses of Behavioral Model-
1) The behavioral model is somewhat shallow and
does not take cognition into account (e.g., the
palliative effects of ‘safety cues’ in anxiety cannot be
explained by a purely behavioral model).

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2) It also implies that we can determine the nature of
the individual just by manipulating consequences,
which is like ‘engineering’ behavior through rewards
and punishment.

        PSYCHOLOGICAL TRADITION: THE
        COGNITIVE MODEL – Ph.D.’s, M.D.’s
Emphasizes the role of thinking and information
processing in mental disorders; attempts to find
causal links between thought patterns and mental
illnesses.

Under the cognitive model, the cause of mental
illness is considered to be the way that we interpret
events or information in the world around us.
Treatment = recognizing and modifying harmful
thought patterns.

Strengths -
1) The cognitive theories are empirically testable.
2) Theories focus on human thought, which is a
crucial element that other treatments ignore.

Weaknesses -
1) Cognition is sometimes difficult to evaluate; we
often have thoughts that are outside conscious
awareness.
2) The cognitive model has been criticized for its
narrow scope – emotion is simplified, thinking is only
one contributor of many to mental illness.
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MORE ABOUT MODELS…
Currently, psychologists favor Multidimensional
Models – For instance, the behavioral and cognitive
perspectives sometimes combine to form the
‘cognitive behavioral perspective’. Treatment
focuses on making minor changes to thoughts and
behaviors to minimize unpleasant symptoms.
Another multidimensional model is the
biopsychosocial model – which takes into account
biological, psychological, and social factors to
explain abnormal behavior.
Why is a multidimensional model better than a
unidimensional model?




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