Behavioural Perspectives of Mental Health

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Question 1:
Describe what is meant by a “behavioural perspective” of mental health and illness. Use examples from the literature to show how medical and behaviourally-based approaches differ.

Behavioural perspectives concerning mental health and illness include bio medical and psychological approaches. Bio medical approaches incorporate pharmacological treatments, heritability, criterion – based diagnosis, and the ability to examine structures and functions of the brain. Psychological approaches comprise psychoanalytical, cognitive, non directive psychotherapy, and behavioural analysis. When making a behavioural perspective concerning a client’s mental health and illness it is important to “distinguish how problems are conceptualised, what is important to target for change, the process of behaviour and how to change the behaviour” (M. Burkhardt, personal communication, 2010). To distinguish how a behaviour is caused physicians need to examine the behaviour and consider the clients environmental antecendents and consequences concerning their behaviour (M. Burkhardt, personal communication, 2010). Behavioural perspectives concerning mental health and illness have changed over time and continually vary in regards to people’s thoughts, point of views, theories and studies. There are many psychological and biological theories and studies that can impact on the treatment decision, conflicting between psychological and pharmacological treatments (M. Burkhardt, personal communication, 2010). The choice of treatment can depend greatly on the client and physicians views and beliefs.

Medical approaches are an important and popular intervention for many people who have been diagnosed with a mental health problem. There are many studies and research surrounding mental health and illness in regards to the medical approach of treatment, evidence in support of the medical approach and biological causation generally falls into two categories, family studies and brain structure/ function studies (Wyatt, 2009). Through the use of functional imaging scans researchers have found that there are differences in the activities of the brains with a range of psychiatric illnesses (Leach, 2009). Frith and Johnstone (2003) as cited in Leach (2009) suggest that “People diagnosed with schizophrenia have noticeable differences in certain aspects of their brain structures compared to others without that diagnosis”. Genetic factors have been linked to making a contribution to mental illnesses, “both depression and schizophrenia have been linked to differences in brain chemistry, and researches have suggested genetic patterns of inheritance for these conditions” (Leach, 2009). Studies have found that there are “biological differences to those who are and are not prone to depression, confirmed by the fact that drugs that have no effect on mood in normal people relieve depression in those who are ill, and the observation that a depressed mood can be precipitated in people who are prone to depressive illnesses simply by manipulating the tryptophan content in their diet” (Delgado et al, 1990 as cited in Kendell, 2009). Many clients who seek help for mental illnesses desire medications due to the fact that they are convinced that their illness are caused biochemically or genetically (Wyatt, 2009). Mental illnesses can be explained in many cases to be cause from a ‘chemical imbalance’ within the body, the medical approach to treat these chemical imbalances is through the use of pharmacological and psychotropic medications to improve their condition by re-balancing chemicals within their body.

Behaviourally based approaches involving mental health and illness, consist of non-medical approaches studying client’s behaviours and thoughts, why they exist and what they can cause, also discussing and creating alternative measures to overcome these thoughts and behaviours. Behavioural analysis focuses on behaviours a client presents with and the...
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