Psychiatry/Psychiatrist

Psychiatry
Psychiatry

Psychiatrists treat patients privately and in hospital settings through a combination of psychotherapy and medication. There are about 41,000 practicing psychiatrists in the United States. Their training consists of four years of medical school, followed by one year of internship and at least three years of psychiatric residency.

Psychiatrists may receive certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), which requires two years of clinical experience beyond residency and the successful completion of a written and an oral test. Unlike a medical license, board certification is not legally required in order to practice psychiatry.

Psychiatrists may practice general psychiatry or choose a specialty, such as child psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, treatment of substance abuse, forensic (legal) psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, mental retardation, community psychiatry, or public health. Some focus their research and clinical work primarily on psychoactive medication, in which case they are referred to as psychopharmacologists.

Psychoactive Drugs

Im Soo Yeon
Psychoactive Drugs

The role of psychoactive drugs, also called psychotherapeutic agents or psychotropic drugs, in the treatment of mental illness is dependent on the disorder for which they are prescribed. In cases where mental illness is considered biological in nature, such as with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, pharmaceutical therapy with psychotherapeutic drugs is recommended as a primary method of treatment.

In other cases, such as in personality disorder or dissociative disorder, psychoactive medications are usually considered a secondary, companion treatment (or adjunct) to a type of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.

In these situations, medication is used to provide temporary symptom relief while the patient works on the issues leading to his illness with a therapist or other mental health professional.

Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis

Developed in Vienna, Austria, by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), psychoanalysis is based on an approach in which the therapist helps the patient better understand him- or herself through examination of the deep personal feelings, relationships, and events that have shaped motivations and behavior.

Freud developed his theories during the end of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries in Vienna, Austria, where he was a practicing physician specializing in neurological disorders. Freud’s interest originated in his medical practice when he encountered patients who were clearly suffering physical symptoms for which he could find no organic, or biological, cause.

Freud’s first attempt to get at the psychological cause of these patients’ pain was through hypnosis, which he studied in Paris in 1885. He found the results to be less than he’d hoped, however, and soon borrowed from a Viennese contemporary the idea of getting a patient to simply talk about his or her problems.

Psychological Abstracts

Psychological Abstracts
Psychological Abstracts

Founded in 1927, Psychological Abstracts contains nonevaluative summary abstracts of literature in the field of psychology and related disciplines, which are grouped into 22 major classification categories. It includes summaries of technical reports as well as journal articles and books.

Each edition is collected into a cumulative volume every six months, with an index listing both the volume’s contents and the national and international journals in which the abstracted literature appear. These journals are cited within the volume by codes listed in each monthly issue.

A table of contents near the beginning of each issue guides readers to broad general areas that they may wish to investigate, while the subject indexes in the cumulative volumes refers them to articles on a particular topic.

Psychological Disorder

Psychological Disorder
Psychological Disorder

While psychological disorders are generally signaled by some form of abnormal behavior or thought process, abnormality can be difficult to define, especially since it varies from culture to culture. Psychologists have several standard approaches to defining abnormality for diagnostic purposes.

One is the statistical approach, which evaluates behavior by determining how closely it conforms to or deviates from that of the majority of people. Behavior may also be evaluated by whether it conforms to social rules and cultural norms, an approach that avoids condemning nonconformists as abnormal for behavior that, while unusual, may not violate social standards and may even be valued in their culture.

Yet another way to gauge the normality of behavior is by whether it is adaptive or maladaptive—and to what extent it interferes with the conduct of everyday life. In some situations, psychologists may also evaluate normality solely on the basis of whether or not a person is made unhappy or uncomfortable by his or her own behavior.

Psychology/Psychologist

Psychology
Psychology

As psychology has grown and changed throughout its history, it has been defined in numerous ways. As early as 400 B.C., the ancient Greeks philosophized about the relationship of personality characteristics to physiological traits. Since then, philosophers have proposed theories to explain human behavior. In the late 1800s the emergence of scientific method gave the study of psychology a new focus.

In 1879, the first psychological laboratory was opened in Leipzig, Germany, by Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), and soon afterwards the first experimental studies of memory were published. Wundt was instrumental in establishing psychology as the study of conscious experience, which he viewed as made up of elemental sensations.

In addition to the type of psychology practiced by Wundt—which became known as structuralism—other early schools of psychology were functionalism, which led to the development of behaviorism, and Gestalt psychology. The American Psychological Association was founded in 1892 with the goals of encouraging research, enhancing professional competence, and disseminating knowledge about the field.

Psychophysics

Psychophysics
Psychophysics

Psychophysics originated with the research of Gustav Fechner (1801-1887), who first studied the relationship between incoming physical stimuli and the responses to them. Psychophysicists have generally used two approaches in studying our sensitivity to stimuli around us: measuring the absolute threshold or discovering the difference threshold.

In studying the absolute threshold using the method of constant stimuli, an experimenter will, for example, produce an extremely faint tone which the listener cannot hear, then gradually increase the intensity until the person can just hear it; on the next trial, the experimenter will play a sound that is clearly heard, then reduce its intensity until the listener can no longer hear it.

Thresholds can also be ascertained through the method of constant stimuli. In this approach, stimuli of varying intensity are randomly presented. Although an observer’s measured threshold will change depending on methodology, this technique gives an estimate of an individual’s sensitivity.

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