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Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition


Psychotherapy is the twenty-second program in the Discovering Psychology series. It explores different therapeutic approaches as well as the relationships among theory, research, and practice. You'll learn how some historical, cultural, and social forces have influenced approaches to the treatment of psychological disorders.

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Interview Excerpt: Hans Strupp on Psychodynamic Therapy

Dr. Hans Strupp discusses the elements necessary from both patient and therapist for successful psychotherapy.

The key ingredients of successful psychotherapy are a patient who can work in therapy, a therapist who can work with his or her patient, and a relationship between the two that makes it possible for them to work together over time. The patient must be motivated to work in therapy. That means that he or she must be willing to invest emotionally, which is very different from a patient in any other kind of treatment. The patient is expected to play an active part in psychotherapy.

The therapist must be, above all, a good listener. Unlike a friend or relative, the professional therapist takes care not to let his or her personal feelings and attitudes interfere with the listening process. One of the great contributions of Freud was that he was among the first people to do what is now considered a commonplace thing: listening to people and their stories for an extended period of time.

People used to be seen as either mentally healthy or mentally ill, but that categorizing changed at the end of the nineteenth century. Modern approaches view mental health on a continuum, with more variety in treatment and less resignation by therapists. There is a growing tolerance in our time for people with emotional disturbances, and that has made a big difference in understanding and treatment.

Psychotherapy is basically a human relationship. It is not a treatment in the medical sense, or in the way treatment is ordinarily understood, where someone administers a treatment to someone else. But it is a relationship in which the two people involved in treatment work together and the result of which, we hope, is an improvement in the patient’s mental health.


Behavior Therapy: Treatment that focuses on the environment that surrounds the patient, as well as reinforcement and conditioning principles that affect the patient and his or her illness.

Biological Biasing: The idea that people are genetically “primed” for a disorder, and therefore more likely to get it than others in the general population.

Biomedical Therapy: Therapy used to treat psychological disorders by associating the disorders with changing biological or physical mechanisms, i.e., treating mental disorders as disease and administering medical treatment.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): Treatment in which an electric current is applied to a patient’s temples in order to induce upheaval in the central nervous system; also called shock therapy.

Free Association: The principle technique in Freudian psychoanalysis in which patients give a running account of thoughts, feelings, mental images, and physical sensations as they occur, in order to derive a repressed or hidden motivation for their psychological disorder.

Prefrontal Lobotomy: An operation that severs the nerve fibers that connect the brain’s frontal lobe to the thalamus. Performed on individuals with severe mental disorders that have not responded to other treatments.

Psychoanalytic Therapy: Freudian technique of exploring unconscious motivations, conflicts, and repressed emotions for a prolonged period of time; an alternative to biomedical treatment.

Psychosurgery: Surgical procedures performed on brain tissue to alleviate psychological disorders.