Differing Theoretical Approaches Used by Mental Health Practitioners Essay

Introduction The aim of this essay is to explore and explain how differing theoretical approaches used by mental health practitioners can affect the way care is provided. This will be achieved through examining the influences of each model and their effects upon the practice of mental health care. Some historical information will be provided to give explanation of the background into the evolution of social and moral perspectives that have shaped mental health care practice throughout the ages.

There are 3 principle theoretical approaches used in practice today those being the biological, psychological and social models. People who exhibited behaviour that deviated from what society considered the norm would be considered to have an evil mind. Treatment during these times would be conducted in the forms of spiritualistic ceremonies and crude forms of brain surgery, (trepanning) done by the shaman. The motive for this practice would be to allow evil spirits to be released. It has been suggested that stone-age cave dwellers may have treated behaviour disorders with this treatment of trepanation. Sue et al, 1990). It appears inevitable that they explained mental illness through a non-scientific cause, because they had not developed scientific techniques to provide a materialistic cause. The supernatural concept of mental illness still existed throughout ancient times with many civilisations such as the Egyptians, Greeks and the Roman Empire believing the cause to be one of a supernatural reason. It was with the ancient Egyptians came the first signs of changes to the treatment of the mentally ill.

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Egyptians like the early Stone Age societies mainly regarded mental illness as magical or religious in nature; however their society which was obsessed with life after death meant that the health of the mind or soul played an essential part in ones overall health. There is evidence to suggest that an ancient temple near Saqqara was being used as a rudimentary hospital for the treatment of the mentally ill which could mean that Egyptian society with its fixation on the health of the soul has the first recorded evidence of a mental healthcare system for their society. (Flanigan, 2003)

According to Davison & Neale, the Greek philosophy of mental illness was a doctrine of demonology that an evil being, such as the devil dwells within an individual and controls their mind and body. However in contrast to this Hippocrates (460-355bc) believed in a biological cause of mental illness. His belief about the treatment of mental illness extended to a kind of brain pathology that was to be treated with proper diet, drink and abstinence from sexual activity (Davison & Neale, 1997). The Greek concept of mental illness was well spread through to the Roman Empire.

Plato’s (428-348 B. C. ) regarded mind as a cause of madness. He believed that the cause of mental illness is a person’s ignorance of a psyche; the force that kept the human being alive; which leads to the self-deception (Mora, 1985). It was at that point that a psychological viewpoint of mental illness was also presented. During this era many thought that both mind and body was a cause of mental illness but, unfortunately both approaches could not be synchronised, so the mind and body position went separately through this period.

During the middle ages the Hippocratic viewpoint of mental illness was gaining prominence with many doctors believing the causes of mental illness to have a biological basis. Constantinus Africanus (1020-1087) founder of the first medical school founded in Salerno, claimed melancholia was a result of an excess of bile causing an imbalance to the system of the body. (Mora, 1985) Later during the renaissance period (15th-16th century) there had been a period of witch-mania, which led to Pope Innocent the 8th sending monks to be the inquisitors of witches.

From this the Malleus Maleficarun (1486) “the witch’s hammer” was published serving as the instruction manual for the inquisitors (Romm & Friedman, 1994). During this time the mentally ill were among those persecuted and witchcraft or possession was declared as the cause of their illness. This witchcraft hysteria pushed the biological theories on mental illness backwards as those who favoured applying a biological theory to the illness feared the punishment of the inquisition. It wasn’t until the 18th century that a major shift from the supernatural explanation to clinical explanation of mental illness happened.

This was through a complete rejection of witchcraft and various other scientific accomplishments in other areas. Legislation was created by the government to “deal” with what they considered as undesirables leading to the birth of “mad houses” for the purpose of detaining individuals. Acts such as The Vagrancy Act (1744) and the Mad Houses Act (1744) were created during this time. From these newly formed acts care for the mentally ill was based upon institutionalised care which saw the building of large asylums used to house the mentally ill using the medical model of treatment.

The medical model is based on a biological theory with the aim to find medical treatments for diagnosed symptoms; this model treats the body as a very complex mechanism as it attempted to offer physical pathological explanations to mental illness. Mental illness was regarded as being “ill” and requiring medical treatment and intervention. According to Davison & Neale, an important contribution to the biological aetiology was Louis Pasteur’s establishment of the germ theory of disease, which claims that disease is caused by infection of the body by minute organisms.

This theory provides an excellent basis to develop the aetiology of specific mental disorders due to viral diseases. The changes in physical pathology are believed to result in symptomatic changes of mood, behaviour, perception and thoughts that characterise the medical diagnosis of mental illnesses. The field of Psychiatry uses the tool of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to make diagnoses. It lists over 200 mental health conditions and the criteria required for each one in making the diagnosis

Treatments for mental illness through the medical model are based upon reliving of symptoms through medical interventions and providing a cure. These medical interventions would be delivered in medical settings such as hospitals and involve treatments such as: E. C. T. and medication. These treatments are aimed to “cure” the symptoms and behaviour associated with mental illness. The medication aims to combat the chemical imbalance that the medical model has attributed to the cause of most mental illnesses.

Schizophrenia is one of the most commonly diagnosed severe mental illnesses with the most widely used form of treatment is the use of anti-psychotic medication. Anti-psychotic drugs are believed to work by changing the activity of chemicals that transmit messages in the brain. The chemical they work on is dopamine. All antipsychotic drugs can cause side effects but these can be different for each patient. The medical model tends to define recovery in negative terms; symptoms and complaints need to be eliminated, illnesses need to be cured or removed.

Patients need to be relieved of their conditions and returned to their pre morbid, healthy, or more accurately not-ill state (Pratt, 2007) The Mental Health Act (1983) defines individuals suffering with mental illness as patients. The Act “deals” with people who have a mental disorder; it contains the effect of detention and covers the interests of a person’s health and safety. This act supports the medical model by determining that treatment is needed for the person’s disorder implying the same basic philosophy of the medical model of diagnosis, treatment, and cure.

The social model examines our relationship and the environment. It was developed in response to the medical model and the impact it had on individual’s life. The social model provides a different perspective, it does not concern with how bad a person’s illness is. It establishes that society erects barriers that prevent people, in turn restricting their opportunities. The philosophy of the social model is to rid society of these barriers, rather than relying on curing the person. The social models primary focus is being on family and group relationships. It considers the social class, risk, vulnerability increase.

Early life experiences, peer group, education and sexual experiences are also considered important. The social model of care aims to give other reasons for mental illness, in that it is not just biological. It gives explanation through the environmental factors of life. The social model philosophy is that illness is caused by the society in which we live and is not the ‘fault’ of an individual person, or an inevitable consequence of their limitations. Recovery is a life orientation that highlights the potential of people with severe mental illness to seek increasingly productive and meaningful lives through activities of their own choosing

The Psychological model is based upon the academic field of psychology. It attempts to explain mental illness through study of the human mind and behaviour. Psychology applies knowledge from the field of study to aspects of human activity, including the problems of individuals’ daily lives and the treatment of mental illness. Psychology’s’ primary concern is the interaction of mental processes and behaviour and not simply the biological of neutral processes themselves. In 1879 Wilhelm founded a laboratory at the Leipzig University in Germany specifically to focus on the study of psychology.

William James later published his 1890 book, Principles of Psychology which laid many of the foundations for the sorts of questions that psychologists would focus on for years to come. The psychological model of care is split into three areas of theory. * Behavioural: inappropriate behaviour learned from negative life experiences, Behavioural Therapies/approaches focus on the need to re-learn more adaptive and appropriate patterns. * Cognitive: perception and interpretation of the world. * Psychoanalytical: Fixation at one of life’s earlier stages.

Behaviourism is the psychological theory of the study of behaviour. It rejects the idea that internal mental states such as beliefs, desires, or goals can be studied scientifically. Behaviourism was the dominant model in psychology for much of the 20th century, largely because of the creation and successful application of conditioning theories as scientific models of behaviour. Cognitive psychology studies cognition, the mental processes underlying behaviour. It uses information processing as a framework for understanding the mind.

Perception, learning, problem solving, memory, attention, language and emotion are all well researched areas. Cognitive psychology is associated with a school of thought known as cognitivism, whose adherents argue for an information processing model of mental function, informed by positivism and experimental psychology. Psychoanalytical Sigmund Freud, who was trained as a neurologist and had no formal training in experimental psychology, had invented and applied a method of psychotherapy known as psychoanalysis.

Freud’s understanding of the mind was largely based on interpretive methods and introspection, but was particularly focused on resolving mental distress and psychopathology. Freud’s theories became very well-known, probably because they tackled subjects such as sexuality and repression as general aspects of psychological development. These were largely considered taboo subjects at the time, and Freud provided a catalyst for them to be openly discussed in polite society. Although Freud’s theories are of virtually no interest today in psychology departments, his application of psychology to clinical work has been very influential. Jarvis, 2000) Psychotherapy treatments involve a range of techniques which use dialogue and communication and are intended to improve the mental health of the individual. Most forms of psychotherapy use spoken conversation; though some also use various other forms of communication such as writing, art work or touch. More often than not psychotherapy involves a therapist and client on a one to one basis or as group. The therapy addresses specific forms of diagnosable mental illness, or everyday problems in meeting personal goals.

Treatment of more everyday problems is referred to as counselling but the term is used interchangeably with psychotherapy. Psychotherapeutic interventions are often designed to treat the client in the medical model, although not all psychotherapeutic approaches follow the model of “illness/cure”. Some practitioners, such as humanistic schools, see themselves in an educational or helper role. Mental health care practice has now evolved into a mixture of the three models of care and is referred to as the bio psychosocial approach. The bio psychosocial approaches to treatment are broadly speaking holistic.

Biological psychological and social factors are all incorporated into individual patient assessment. The bio psychosocial model of medicine is a way of looking at the mind and body of a patient as two important systems that are interlinked. The bio psychosocial model is also a technical term for the popular concept of the mind-body connection. This is in contrast to the traditional biomedical model of medicine. The bio psychosocial model draws a distinction between the actual pathological processes that cause ‘disease’, and the patient’s perception of their health and the effects on it, called the illness.

As well as a separate existence of disease and illness, the bio psychosocial model states that the workings of the body can affect the mind, and the workings of the mind can affect the body. (Gilbert. P, 2002) stated that: “At its best the bio psychosocial approach is holistic but is also more than that. The bio psychosocial approach addresses the complexity of interactions between different domains of functioning and argues that it is the interaction of domains that illuminate important processes. ” Gilbert, P (2002).

Government policies and guidelines dictating the standards of care for the mentally ill now give consideration to the bio psychosocial approach to care. The National Service Framework for mental health was launched in 1999 and sets out how mental health services will be planned, delivered and monitored. The NSF lists seven standards that set targets for the mental health care of adults aged up to 65. These standards span five areas: health promotion and stigma, primary care and access to specialist services, needs of those with severe and enduring mental illness, carers’ needs, and suicide reduction are also considered.

A primary concern of anti-psychiatry is that an individual’s degree of adherence to communally, or majority, held values may be used to determine that person’s level of mental health. Other organisations such as Mind Freedom International and World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry maintain that psychiatrists exaggerate the evidence of medication and minimize the evidence of adverse drug reaction. An article published through the anti-psychiatry movement stated that: Psychiatry should be abolished as a medical speciality because medical school education is not needed nor even helpful for doing counselling or so-called psychotherapy, because the perception of mental illness as a biological entity is mistaken, because psychiatry’s “treatments” other than counselling or psychotherapy (primarily drugs and electroshock) hurt rather than help people, because non-psychiatric physicians are better able than psychiatrists to treat real brain disease, and because non-psychiatric physicians’ acceptance of psychiatry as a medical specialty is a poor reflection on the medical profession as a whole” (Stevens.

L, 2006). The medical profession does not have a precise understanding of why some individuals develop a psychiatric disorder and some do not. Some have developed a general theory to explain the causes of these disorders and their course over time called the stress vulnerability model. This theory was originally introduced as a means to explain some of the underlying causes of schizophrenia by Zubin ; Spring, (1977). Therefore Psychiatric disorders have a biological basis, but environmental factors can influence their course over time.

The stress-vulnerability model points out that a positive outcome of a psychiatric disorder is more likely if environmental stress is minimized or managed well, medication is taken as prescribed, and alcohol and drug abuse are avoided. Conclusion Through the evolution of mental health care it has been made clear that the three separate models of medical, social and psychological approaches of care are not each in their own right complimentary to the holistic needs of individuals suffering with diagnoses of mental illness.

Pressure from such groups as the Anti- Psychiatry movement is helping to change attitudes and perceptions about mental health. Critics of psychiatry generally do not dispute the notion that some people have emotional or psychological problems, or that some psychotherapies do not work for a problem. They do usually disagree with psychiatry on the source of these problems; the appropriateness of characterising these problems as illness and on what the proper management options are. Mental health care is delivered with assessments and needs of the individual being assessed through a collaborative approach of Effective Care Co-ordination.

ECC assesses individual’s needs through the bio psychosocial philosophy i. e. : medical assessment, social needs and or psychological interventions. All mental health service users have a range of needs which no one treatment service or agency can meet alone; this system of ECC allows a service user access to the most relevant response. Hopefully providing the individual the necessary tenets of care they require. References: Davison, G. C. Neale, J. M. (1997) Abnormal psychology (7th Ed. ). New York, John Wiley ;Sons Inc. Department of Health. (1999) National Service Framework, Mental Health.

The Stationary Office Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth edition. Copyright 2000 American Psychiatric Association. Gilbert, P. (2002) Clinical Psychology. Understanding the bio psychosocial approach: Conceptualisation. Kingsway Hospital, Derby. Flanagan, C. (2003) Psychology for AS: AQA Specification: The Complete Companion, Cheltenham, Nelson Thornes Ltd | | | | | | | | | Bottom of Form Mora,G. (1985) History of Psychiatry. Baltimore, M. D. : Williams ; Wilkins. Mental Health Act 1983. [Online] Available: http://www. dh. gov. k/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4005756 [Accessed 3rd February 2010] Stevens, L. Why psychiatry should be abolished as a medical speciality. [Online] Available: http://antipsychiatry. org/abolish. htm. [Accessed 23rd February 2010] Sue, D et al. (1990) Understanding abnormal behaviour (3rd Ed. ). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. The 1832 Madhouse Act and the Metropolitan Commission in Lunacy from 1832 [Online] Available: http://studymore. org. uk/3s. htm [Accessed 25th February 2010] UPIAS [Online] Available: http://www. gmcdp. com/UPIAS. html [Accessed 6thMarch 2010] Zubin, J. ;


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