Several school of thoughts in psychology are affiliated with specific therapies used to treat mental disorders. Psychoanalysis, its founder Sigmund Freud, established what is known as psychodynamic therapy. In this type of therapy, the therapist is in control. Historically, the patient was asked to lay down on a couch. The therapist helps the patient uncover unconscious thoughts and conflicts that are contributing to a person’s current dysfunctions, concepts such as transference, when the patient projects feelings from people in one’s life onto the therapist, used. Examining a patient’s resistance to change, as well as defense mechanisms is also part of this therapy. Dream interpretation and free association are also used (Cherry, 2015) .
In Humanism, a perspective developed by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, person-centered therapy is the treatment type. In this therapy, the client is more in control of the sessions. Emphasizing a strong therapeutic alliance that uses non-judgment on the part of the therapist, the therapist engages in unconditional positive regard. This means that the client is respected, shown empathy, and appreciated for who one is. Person centered therapy also uses restatement and paraphrasing, as the client and therapist explore difference between the client’s real and ideal selves, so the client can begin to heal. Self-actualization, which is defined as reaching one’s highest potential, is also a goal of this therapy (Cherry, 2015).

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Behaviorism is another school of thought, Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, and Watson all contributors. In this therapy, the goal is centered on changing one’s behaviors. Treatments used are classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning to replace maladaptive and negative behaviors with more adaptive and positive behaviors. The type of behavioral technique that is utilized depends on the client’s problem. For instance, a client who suffers from a phobia, such as fear of dogs, many be treated with systematic desensitization or exposure therapy to lesson one’s anxiety and make one less fearful. Behavioral modification, such as token economies, which pair a primary reinforce with a secondary reinforce, are often employed in classrooms to change students’ behaviors (Cherry, 2015).

Cognitive Psychology focuses on how irrational thoughts can contribute to maladaptive actions. Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck are paramount in cognitive therapy. Treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which examines how one’s unhealthy thoughts are contributing to one’s maladaptive thoughts and actions. Automatic cognitions can lead to distorted thoughts that make an individual misinterpret situations. By changing thoughts to more positive ones, healthier actions will hopefully result. Ellis’s REBT therapy is similar to CBT, the A-B-C model focusing on how an individual’s rational and illogical thoughts can be changed to more rational ones. Activating events, irrational beliefs, emotional consequences, disputing flawed beliefs, and a new perspective are part of this therapy (Cherry, 2015).

Structuralism and functionalism are older schools of psychological thought that were introduced by Wundt and Titchener. Structuralism focused on breaking down cognitive processes into small, simpler components through introspection. This means that one examines one’s conscious thoughts. However, functionalism focuses more on the purpose that one’s thoughts, feelings, and activities play in one’s life. It is believed that these processes help one to adapt to their environment .

The Biological school of thought is how hormones, the brain, and genes contribute to one’s thoughts, behavior, and mental dysfunctions. This perspective is closely aligned with the medical model. Since psychological problems are thought to be related to chemical imbalances in the brain, drug therapy is a major treatment here. Medications such as anti-depressants, SSRI’s, and anti-psychotics used to treat disorders such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety disorders .

  • Cherry., K. (2015). Major schools of thought in psychology. Retrieved from
  • Licht, H. &. (2014). Scientific American: Psychology (1st ed.). New York : Worth Publishers.