One of the most popular theories in psychology was outlined by B.F. Skinner, linked most the specific human behaviors to the presence of unique punishments and rewards. Currently, it is regarded as operant conditioning because there is always a certain type of response to the external environment that generates specific consequences (Sturdy & Nicoladis, 2017). Human knowledge of operant conditioning allows them to pinpoint the most complex properties of behavior without overlooking contingencies and other challenges. B.F. Skinner’s ideas have a significant impact on the learning process as well because many students tend to perform better under the condition where they are rewarded or punished in a certain way (Sturdy & Nicoladis, 2017). Accordingly, operant conditioning is one of the ways to generate an expected behavior without exerting too much effort since the only requirement for a specific behavior is to introduce a viable reward or punishment that would regulate the person’s response.
Another crucial theory that changed the field of psychotherapeutic approaches to mental health illnesses was Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. This strategy is based on the idea that people are generally positive thinkers who want to find happiness and attain their goals (Ellis, 2010). Nevertheless, irrational thoughts are recurrently affecting humans to an extent where they ignore the existence of multiple perspectives and look at their life from a single angle. REBT is important because it introduces the ABC model of human behavior, where A stands for the activating event, B is the irrational thought interfering with an individual’s life, and C is for the consequences (upsetting emotions) that follow incorrect beliefs (Ellis, 2010). Therefore, this type of therapy intends to reframe one’s thoughts and ensure their views become mostly or completely positive.
One of the most common mental health disorders is depression. Often, therapists choose to address it with the help of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as it may be utilized to respond to behaviors that contribute to depression while also restructuring the thought patterns that have led to the development of mental health issues (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). Therapists usually ask clients to keep track of their beliefs and behaviors with the help of a daily journal.
Anxiety can be effectively addressed with the help of exposure therapy, as the client gets to face their fears. Over time, the person gets to learn more about how they could control their fears and concerns without letting their anxiety overrun their behavior (Carl et al., 2019). Depending on the client, the situation inducing anxiety may be presented as an imaginary one or as a real-life scenario.
A panic attack can be mediated through the interface of talk therapy which is also known as general psychotherapy. Prolonged discussions may help the individual gain a better insight into their panic attacks and learn how they could effectively cope with them in the future (Sibley et al., 2015). The primary objective of the therapeutic alliance is to remove the physical sensation that follows a panic attack.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is often addressed via Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP). The latter is a derivative of CBT that has people facing their obsessions and keeping away from performing any compulsions (Rodriguez-Romaguera et al., 2016). Gradually, the sense of anxiety is going to dissolve, allowing the client to step away from obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be approached with the help of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). The main idea for the therapist and the client is to talk about the events that affected the client’s life and then examine how trauma could be overcome with the help of objective thoughts and actions (Resick et al., 2015). This would help the client take control of their life and move forward without exposure to traumatic events from the past.
It should be remembered that therapy could be affected by cultural differences, which are dynamic and complex, often too subjective. Patients and therapists have to take a respectful approach to their differences in order to establish a powerful therapeutic alliance and recognize how those variances could contribute to the outcomes of therapy on a long-term scale (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2016). Particular cultural backgrounds should not be seen as predictors of certain therapy choices, meaning that clients should be the last resort in terms of how they are treated.
The therapeutic process is also recurrently challenged by cultural differences that are not seen as assets by therapists. In other words, any given member of a minority group experiencing a mental health issue should not see their accentuated characteristic as a disadvantage and capitalize on it instead (Chu et al., 2016). Cultural messages could be rather intense, so it makes sense if the client nurtures their uniqueness and does everything to enrich the cultural background of the therapeutic process as an alternative to destroying the therapeutic alliance because of those exact differences.
Since the cultural context recurrently broadens, both clients and therapists have to recognize their unique points of connection in order to reach positive outcomes quicker. Therapists should act in conjunction with their clients to become true advocates for diversity and a deeper understanding of how cultural variety could influence the course of treatment (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2016). Even if there were specific differences in worldviews, clients and therapists should not give up on their alliance and the possibility to overcome cultural limitations of mental health illness treatments.
Stigma and Labels of Mental Illness
Once a person gets labeled as mentally ill, they are almost instantly forced by society to take on a different identity that was created by society. The more individuals with a mental illness get to internalize their behaviors and worries, the more they risk becoming too dependent on societal role expectations (Corrigan et al., 2015). Stigmatization is what follows the process of labeling an individual, which averts the person from normal interactions with other people. Due to being believed to be abnormal, people with mental health illnesses are majorly overlooked by society, which also creates a challenge for them when they need or want to speak out and protect themselves from worse health outcomes.
The task of challenging stigma should be assigned to society as a whole because several executives will not be able to advocate for the destruction of mental health labels. A thorough involvement of a variety of stakeholders would be much more beneficial, as clients have to be empowered by someone who is closer to them across the societal hierarchy (Corrigan & Nieweglowski, 2019). The burden of mental health affects more people than just those with mental health illnesses since the latter have family members and children who also depend on the societal reaction. Before stigma turns into outright discrimination, actions should be made to alter behaviors and beliefs.
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Sibley, D. S., Schmidt, A. E., & Kimmes, J. G. (2015). Applying a contextual therapy framework to treat panic disorder: A case study. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 26(4), 299-317.
Sturdy, C. B., & Nicoladis, E. (2017). How much of language acquisition does operant conditioning explain? Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1918-1923.