Robert A. Neimeyer and Melissa A. Smigelsky
Death and loss are universal human experiences, yet understandings of and attitudes toward expressing grief have shifted across time. The earliest psychological conceptualization of grief pathologized “holding on” to the lost object, a notion that has since been rejected in favor of a conception of continuing bonds that can be adaptive in grief. Similarly, early stage theories of grieving suggested a linear progression toward resolution and acceptance of loss, which has been criticized in favor of approaches that allow for natural regulatory processes of attending to the loss and reengaging with a changed world. In sum, grief is no longer regarded solely as looking back on a past life with the deceased but rather is oriented toward creating and reconstructing a meaningful present and future that accommodate the loss and its impact.
Most people respond adaptively to loss by relying on their internal and social support systems. However, a significant subset of grievers struggles with complicated grief, which is characterized by intense longing for the deceased, causes impairment in various life domains, and extends beyond the period of grieving that is considered normal for the population and culture. Grief therapy is most appropriate and advantageous for grievers who self-identify the need for additional support, and this tends to happen among those who are struggling disproportionately. Complicated grief shares features with other common psychiatric diagnoses (e.g., Major Depressive Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), as well as being characterized by distinctive separation distress regarding the deceased. Treatment for complicated grief targets the common symptoms among these disorders as well as the grief-specific manifestations of distress that are concentrated on issues of coping, attachment, meaning, and behavior.
Simona C. Kaplan, Michaela B. Swee, and Richard G. Heimberg
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by fear of being negatively evaluated by others in social situations. Multiple psychological interventions have been developed to treat SAD. The most widely studied of these interventions stem from cognitive-behavioral, acceptance-based, interpersonal, and psychodynamic conceptualizations of SAD. In cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), patients learn to identify and question maladaptive thoughts and engage in exposures to feared situations to test the accuracy of biased beliefs. Mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to treating SAD focus on mindful awareness and acceptance of distressing internal experiences (i.e., psychological and physiological symptoms) with the ultimate goal of behavior change and living a meaningful life based on identified values. Interpersonal psychotherapy links SAD to interpersonal problem areas and aims to reduce symptoms by targeting interpersonal difficulties. Psychodynamic psychotherapy for SAD focuses on identifying unresolved conflicts that lead to SAD symptoms, fostering insight and expressiveness, and forming a secure helping alliance.
Generally, CBT is the most well-studied of the psychological treatments for SAD, and research demonstrates greater reductions in social anxiety than pill placebo and waitlist controls. Results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest that mindfulness—and acceptance-based therapies may be as efficacious as CBT, although the body of research remains small; four of five RCTs comparing these approaches to CBT found no differences. RCTs comparing CBT to IPT suggest that CBT is the more efficacious treatment. Two RCTs comparing CBT to psychodynamic psychotherapy suggest that psychodynamic psychotherapy may have efficacy similar to CBT, but that it takes longer to achieve similar outcomes. RCTs examining CBT and pharmacotherapy suggest that the medications phenelzine and clonazepam are as efficacious as CBT for treating SAD and are faster acting, but that patients receiving these medications may be more likely to relapse after treatment is discontinued than patients who received CBT. Research generally does not indicate added benefit of combining psychotherapy with pharmacotherapy above each monotherapy alone, although this body of research is quite variable. Effectiveness studies indicate that CBT is equally effective in community clinics and controlled research trials, but studies of this nature are lacking for other psychological approaches.
Katy W. Martin-Fernandez and Yossef S. Ben-Porath
Attempts at informal personality assessment can be traced back to our distant ancestors. As the field of Clinical Psychology emerged and developed over time, efforts were made to create reliable and valid measures of personality and psychopathology that could be used in a variety of contexts. There are many assessment instruments available for clinicians to use, with most utilizing either a projective or self-report format. Individual assessment instruments have specific administration, scoring, and interpretive guidelines to aid clinicians in making accurate decisions based on a test taker’s answers. These measures are continuously adapted to reflect the current conceptualization of personality and psychopathology and the latest technology. Additionally, measures are adapted and validated to be used in a variety of settings, with a variety of populations. Personality assessment continues to be a dynamic process that can be utilized to accurately and informatively represent the test taker and aid in clinical decision making and planning.
Felipe B. Schuch and Brendon Stubbs
Depression is a leading cause of global burden affecting people across all ages, genders, and socioeconomic groups. Antidepressants are the cornerstone of treatment, yet treatment response is often inadequate. While some psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy can also help alleviate depressive symptoms, alternative and complimentary treatment options are required. In particular, therapeutic interventions that also address the greatly increased levels of obesity and cardiovascular disease among people with depression may offer added value. With the rising burden of premature mortality due to cardiovascular disease in people with depression and promising evidence base for physical activity to improve depressive symptoms, it is important to review the role, benefits, and underlying neurobiological responses of exercise among people with depression.
There has been a growing body of evidence to suggest that higher levels of physical activity reduce a person’s risk of incident depression. It appears that lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness increase an individual risk of depression, suggesting that physical activity and physical fitness have a key role in the prevention of depression. Moreover, exercise can improve depressive symptoms in those with subthreshold depressive symptoms and major depressive disorder. Despite the effectiveness of exercise, the optimal dose and frequency are yet to be fully elucidated. Nonetheless, exercise appears to be well accepted by people with depression, with relatively low levels of dropout from interventions, particularly when supervised by qualified professionals with expertise in exercise prescription. Various barriers to engaging in exercise exist and motivational strategies are essential to initiate and maintain exercise. A number of hypotheses have been postulated to determine the antidepressant effect of exercise; however, most are based on animal models or models elucidated from people without depression. Therefore, future representative research is required to elucidate the neurobiological antidepressant response from exercise in people with depression. Physical activity interventions targeting fitness should be a central part of the prevention and management of depression. In particular, physical activity interventions offer a viable option to prevent and address cardiometabolic abnormalities and cardiovascular disease, which account for a significant amount of premature deaths in this population and are not addressed by standard pharmacological and psychological therapies.
Jonathan S. Abramowitz
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most destructive psychological disorders. Its symptoms often interfere with work or school, interpersonal relationships, and with activities of daily living (e.g., driving, using the bathroom). Moreover, the psychopathology of OCD is seemingly complex: sufferers battle ubiquitous unwanted thoughts, doubts, and images that, while senseless on the one hand, are perceived as signs of danger on the other hand. The thematic variation and elaborate relations between behavioral and cognitive signs and symptoms can be perplexing to even the most experienced of observers. Cognitive-behavioral models of OCD explain these phenomena and account for their heterogeneity. These models also have implications for how OCD is treated using exposure and response prevention, which research indicates are effective short- and long-term interventions.
Kathleen Someah, Christopher Edwards, and Larry E. Beutler
There are many approaches to psychotherapy, commonly called “schools” or “theories.” These schools range from psychoanalytic, to variations of insight- and conflict-based approaches, through behavioral and cognitive behavioral approaches, to humanistic/existential approaches, and finally to integrative and eclectic approaches. Different and seemingly new approaches typically have been informed by older and more established ones. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the more widely used approaches, evolved from traditional behavior therapy but has become sufficiently distinct by adding its own complex variations so as functionally to represent an approach of its own.
New approaches abound both in number and in complexity. Modern clinicians have had to become increasingly widely read and creative in trying to understand the ways in which patients may be helped. The sheer number of approaches, which has climbed into the hundreds, has challenged the field to find ways of ensuring that the treatments presented are effective. The advent of Evidence Based Practices (EBP) throughout the healthcare fields has placed the responsibility on those who advocate for particular types of treatment scientifically to demonstrate their efficacy and effectiveness. While this movement has brought standards to the field and has offered some assurance that psychotherapy is usually helpful, there remains much debate about whether the many different schools produce different results from one another. The debate about how best to optimize positive effects of psychotherapy continues, and there remain many questions to be asked of psychotherapy theories and of research on these approaches.
Mary V. Minges and Jacques P. Barber
Psychodynamic psychotherapies (PDP) is an umbrella term for a variety of therapeutic modalities that have evolved out of the psychoanalytic/psychodynamic tradition, each theorizing a trajectory of human development that includes an etiology of and treatment for psychopathology. PDPs have in common the belief that people have an unconscious mind that influences thoughts and behaviors outside of the individual’s awareness. These processes operate from birth till death and are responsible for adaptive and maladaptive functioning at the level of interpersonal relationships and daily living.
The psychodynamic therapist creates a case formulation for the individual seeking treatment, which incorporates a formal diagnosis with an understanding of the underlying dynamic factors contributing to the individual’s suffering. From this case formulation a treatment plan is created specific to the individual. During treatment, the therapist develops a strong working alliance while utilizing psychodynamic-specific techniques targeted at bringing insight into these unconscious thoughts and behaviors. Greater self-understanding enables greater choice ability and flexibility in functioning.
In contrast to prevalent views, empirical research has found support for the efficacy of PDP in the treatment of mental disorders, including but not limited to: depression, anxiety disorders, somatic disorders, and personality disorders. In general, PDP was found more effective than control conditions and not different from active treatments. PDP effects have been shown to remain stable post treatment.
Katherine Nieweglowski and Patrick W. Corrigan
Stigma is a complex process that results from the interaction of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. When applied to health conditions (e.g., mental illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, obesity), stigma can contribute to a lack of recovery and resources as well as devaluation of the self. People with stigmatized health conditions may be too embarrassed to seek treatment and others may not provide them with equal opportunities. This often results in discrimination in employment, housing, and health care settings. Strategies have been proposed to prompt stigma change with strategic contact between those with the health condition and everyone else likely to have the best effects.
Scott O. Lilienfeld
Although psychotherapy is on balance effective for a broad array of psychological problems, a relatively small but steadily accumulating body of evidence suggests that at least some psychological interventions are harmful. Until recently, however, relatively little research attention has been paid to the identification of harmful psychological treatments. Although it has long been recognized that a nontrivial minority of people become worse following therapy, this finding does not necessarily mean that they have become worse because of therapy. Nevertheless, recent research has homed in on a small subset of interventions that may produce psychological harm, physical harm, or both. In addition, there is growing interest in pinpointing potential mechanisms of deterioration effects in psychotherapy, as well as in distinguishing harmful therapies from harmful therapists.
DeMond M. Grant and Evan J. White
Cognitive control is the ability to direct attention and cognitive resources toward achieving one’s goals. However, research indicates that anxiety biases multiple cognitive processes, including cognitive control. This occurs in part because anxiety leads to excessive processing of threatening stimuli at the expense of ongoing activities. This enhanced processing of threat interferes with several cognitive processes, which includes how individuals view and respond to their environment. Specifically, research indicates that anxious individuals devote their attention toward threat when considering both early, automatic processes and later, sustained attention. In addition, anxiety has negative effects on working memory, which involves the ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s consciousness. Anxiety has been found to decrease the resources necessary for effective working memory performance, as well as increase the likelihood of negative information entering working memory. Finally, anxiety is characterized by focusing excessive attention on mistakes, and there is also a reduction in the cognitive control resources necessary to correct behavior. Enhancing our knowledge of how anxiety affects cognitive control has broad implications for understanding the development of anxiety disorders, as well as emerging treatments for these conditions.