Psychotherapy can be explained by the meeting between a person who is suffering from a psychological disorder and the psychologist. This meeting is used to help the client work through any issues in which are causing the disorder as well as change the client’s thinking, feelings, and behavior. There are two basic methods of treating psychological disorders; biomedical and psychotherapy. Many of the approaches to treating these types of disorders are listed under the psychotherapy method. Before explaining the approaches in psychotherapy, the biomedical approach needs to be understood.

The Biomedical Approach


     The biomedical approach attempts to treat psychological disorders with drugs and surgical procedures. According to Nevid & Rathus (2005), there are “three forms of biomedical treatment for psychological disorders” (p. 323). The three forms of treatment range from widely used to rarely used and consist of drug therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and psychosurgery. Drug therapy consists of the use of psychotropic or psychotherapeutic drugs to combat illnesses of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia disorder, as well as many other emotional disorders.

There are three major classes of psychotropic drugs called: antianxiety drugs, antipsychotic drugs, and antidepressants. According to Nevid & Rathus (2005), there are three major types of antidepressants called “Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors [Nardil and Parnate], Tricyclic antidepressants [Tofranil and Elavil], and Selective serotoninreuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) [Prozac and Zoloft]” (p. 324). Antianxiety Drugs, also called “minor tranquilizers,” include “Diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), oxazepam (Serax), and alprazolam (Xanax)” (Nevid & Rathus, 2005, p. 323). And lastly, Nevid & Rathus (2005), states that antipsychotic Drugs, also called “major tranquilizers” or “neuroleptics,” include “Phenothiazines (Thorazine and Mellaril) and clozapine (Clozaril)” (p. 324). Although drugs are often used to treat psychological disorders, there are ways to treat these disorders without the use of drugs or other medical procedures.

The Psychotherapy Method


     The psychotherapy method is broken down into four major categories; they are: psychodynamic, humanistic-existential, behavior, and cognitive. Within each of these categories, there are subcategories that further explain each approach to treatment. The first category, the psychodynamic approach, is said to be “Based on the thinking of Sigmund Freud” (Nevid & Rathus, 2005, p. 296). Freud’s theory was that people do not know themselves as well as they think they do and that throughout life humans experience stages or changes that affect daily life as well as love and relationships. Freud believed that the mind closes off certain undesired emotions and feelings, therefore; other methods would need to be used in order to “trick” the mind into giving up the information that the psychologist needs in order to help the patient. These methods include free association and transference.

During a free association session, the client is asked to talk about any topic that comes to mind without repressing or stop the thought process. There may be times in which the client’s mind is reluctant to release certain painful or undesired thoughts and feelings. At this time, the client will begin to show anger towards the analyst by saying that his or her mind is blank or that the analyst is being harsh or pushy. However, the patient will eventually come to discuss the repressed feelings, allowing the patient to overcome the illness. Transference occurs when the patient begins projecting feelings of similarity onto the analyst. This is to say that a female patient might act and talk as if a male analyst is her father. These actions may reflect a need for acceptance or a misplaced target of aggression. The newer generation of psychoanalysts believed that “Freud had placed too much emphasis on sexual and aggressive impulses and underestimated the role of the ego” (Nevid & Rathus, 2005, p. 300). Some of the more modern psychoanalysts believed that, unlike psychodynamic methods where the patients are analyzed for internal conflicts or unconscious issues, the humanistic-existential therapy focuses on the “Quality of the client’s subjective, conscious experience” (Nevid & Rathus, 2005, p. 300).


     The humanistic-existential therapy method basically focuses on the “here and now” instead of looking into the past for underlying problems. Carl Rogers, the creator of the client-centered therapy and Fritz Perls, the creator of the Gestalt therapy did believe that a person’s early perceptions of other people’s values and expectations could lead to the client’s denial or “disowning” of parts his or her own personality. These therapies are similar because they have the client explore the problems and find answers to the questions that will lead to recovery. However, behavior therapy “applies principles of learning to help people make desired behavioral changes” (Nevid & Rathus, 2005, p. 304). There are several methods in which therapists use in the behavioral category that allow patients to confront and overcome their fears and emotional turmoil. Lastly, cognitive therapy is believed to be a personal way to teach the mind and body to overcome stresses and emotions by way of changing a person’s expectations, attitudes, and beliefs. According to Nevid & Rathus (2005), psychiatrist Aaron Beck “encouraged clients to become their own personal scientists to identify distorted ways of thinking and replace them with more adaptive thoughts and beliefs” (p. 308).


Psychological disorders can be treated in many different ways. Some psychologists believe that the best way is with the use of psychotherapeutic drugs and others believe that the mind can be relieved of stresses, depression, and anxiety simply by understanding why a person is feeling the way he or she does and the understanding of how to fix the problems. Each different approach has a unique way of determining the patient’s illness and different ways of treating said illnesses. Throughout the years, many psychologists have explored new ways of helping patients overcome their emotional stresses while opening new avenues for research and updated treatments. However, the best treatment methods depend of the individual’s specific needs.


Nevid, J. & Rathus, S. (2005). Psychology and the Challenges of Life. Retrieved from Axia College. PSY210 website.

Image source for cartoon therapy session: Όλα τα δικαιώματα κατοχυρωμένα. (Posted: June 16, 2014). Exploring popular images and representations of psychotherapy. Retrieved from

Image source for male therapist and female client: Treatment 4 Addiction. (2011). Psychotherapist treatment methods. Retrieved from

Image source for bill person: Octopus Alchemy. (Posted: February 6, 2015). We need to talk about depression (and the redundancy of the biomedical approach). Retrieved from

Image source for split road: Monchi’s Men. (Posted: May 19, 2015). A Fork in the Road. Retrieved from

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