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8.7: Emerging Treatment Strategies

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    8.7: Emerging Treatment Strategies

    With growth in research and technology, psychologists have been able to develop new treatment strategies in recent years. Often, these approaches focus on enhancing existing treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapies, through the use of technological advances. For example, internet- and mobile-delivered therapies make psychological treatments more available, through smartphones and online access. Clinician-supervised online CBT modules allow patients to access treatment from home on their own schedule—an opportunity particularly important for patients with less geographic or socioeconomic access to traditional treatments. Furthermore, smartphones help extend therapy to patients’ daily lives, allowing for symptom tracking, homework reminders, and more frequent therapist contact.

    Another benefit of technology is cognitive bias modification. Here, patients are given exercises, often through the use of video games, aimed at changing their problematic thought processes. For example, researchers might use a mobile app to train alcohol abusers to avoid stimuli related to alcohol. One version of this game flashes four pictures on the screen—three alcohol cues (e.g., a can of beer, the front of a bar) and one health-related image (e.g., someone drinking water). The goal is for the patient to tap the healthy picture as fast as s/he can. Games like these aim to target patients’ automatic, subconscious thoughts that may be difficult to direct through conscious effort. That is, by repeatedly tapping the healthy image, the patient learns to “ignore” the alcohol cues, so when those cues are encountered in the environment, they will be less likely to trigger the urge to drink. Approaches like these are promising because of their accessibility, however they require further research to establish their effectiveness.

    Yet another emerging treatment employs CBT-enhancing pharmaceutical agents. These are drugs used to improve the effects of therapeutic interventions. Based on research from animal experiments, researchers have found that certain drugs influence the biological processes known to be involved in learning. Thus, if people take these drugs while going through psychotherapy, they are better able to “learn” the techniques for improvement. For example, the antibiotic d-cycloserine improves treatment for anxiety disorders by facilitating the learning processes that occur during exposure therapy. Ongoing research in this exciting area may prove to be quite fruitful.

    pill bottle .png

    "Drugs" by Brandon Giesbrecht is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    Pharmacological Treatments

    Up until this point, all the therapies we have discussed have been talk-based or meditative practices. However, psychiatric medications are also frequently used to treat mental disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. Psychiatric drugs are commonly used, in part, because they can be prescribed by general medical practitioners, whereas only trained psychologists are qualified to deliver effective psychotherapy. While drugs and CBT therapies tend to be almost equally effective, choosing the best intervention depends on the disorder and individual being treated, as well as other factors—such as treatment availability and comorbidity (i.e., having multiple mental or physical disorders at once). Although many new drugs have been introduced in recent decades, there is still much we do not understand about their mechanism in the brain. Further research is needed to refine our understanding of both pharmacological and behavioral treatments before we can make firm claims about their effectiveness.

    Integrative and Eclectic Psychotherapy

    In discussing therapeutic orientations, it is important to note that some clinicians incorporate techniques from multiple approaches, a practice known as integrative or eclectic psychotherapy. For example, a therapist may employ distress tolerance skills from DBT (to resolve short-term problems), cognitive reappraisal from CBT (to address long-standing issues), and mindfulness-based meditation from MBCT (to reduce overall stress). And, in fact, between 13% and 42% of therapists have identified their own approaches as integrative or eclectic (Norcross & Goldfried, 2005).


    Throughout human history we have had to deal with mental illness in one form or another. Over time, several schools of thought have emerged for treating these problems. Although various therapies have been shown to work for specific individuals, cognitive behavioral therapy is currently the treatment most widely supported by empirical research. Still, practices like psychodynamic therapies, person-centered therapy, mindfulness-based treatments, and acceptance and commitment therapy have also shown success. And, with recent advances in research and technology, clinicians are able to enhance these and other therapies to treat more patients more effectively than ever before. However, what is important in the end is that people actually seek out mental health specialists to help them with their problems. One of the biggest deterrents to doing so is that people don’t understand what psychotherapy really entails. Through understanding how current practices work, not only can we better educate people about how to get the help they need, but we can continue to advance our treatments to be more effective in the future.


    The above content was remix from:

    38.6: Emerging Treatment Strategies is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    38.7: Pharmacological Treatments is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    38.8: Integrative And Eclectic Psychotherapy is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    38.9: Conclusion is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    Therapeutic Orientations by Hannah Boettcher, Stefan G. Hofmann, and Q. Jade Wu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-NA 4.0 International License.

    Style Boettcher, H., Hofmann, S. G., & Wu, Q. J. (2019). Therapeutic orientations. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers.

    8.7: Emerging Treatment Strategies is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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