There are many different approaches to psychology that have been developed since Charles Darwin published his book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, in 1872. Four of the largest and most influential of these methodologies are the psychoanalytic approach, the behavioral approach, the humanistic approach, and the cognitive approach. Today, facets of each of these schools of thought have been brought in to the generally accepted biopsychosocial model of psychology, which combines the biology and mental processes of a person with the environment that they live or have lived in to understand their behavior. Roger’s depression can be analyzed though each of these methods in order to understand and establish treatments that may help him.
The first model is the psychoanalytical model. Sigmund Freud is generally credited for developing this theory, which tries to explain behavior and personality through primitive drives and unconscious thought processes. This theory integrates with a more medical-approach to psychology, with diagnoses and medication being used as a tool. A psychoanalyst would probably be interested identifying the trauma that is triggering Roger’s depression. Freud was partial to a technique called “free association” to accomplish this, since it allows the subconscious thoughts of the patient to come through and then be dealt with. The psychoanalyst would also be likely to formally diagnose Roger with Major Depressive Disorder per the DSM-V until he had worked through all of the subconscious thoughts that are causing him to be depressed.
A psychologist subscribing to the Behaviorism school of thought might have a similar therapeutic approach to the psychoanalyst—talking the patient through the roots of his depression—but would be looking to establish a concrete cause, instead of just subconscious thoughts. Behaviorists believe that human psychology is a cause and effect relationship, and that humans can condition themselves, just as Palov conditioned a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. In Rogers’ case, they might look at the levels of different neurotransmitters in his brain, or a specific event that conditioned him to be depressed. They might send them to a psychiatrist for prescription medication, and/or work with Roger to re-condition himself to overcome those previous associations that were making him depressed.
Humanist psychologists would have a very different take on Roger’s condition then either the psychoanalysts or behaviorists. Humanistic psychology is centered on the idea that each person is unique and is striving to grow and fulfill their potential. Abraham Maslow was a notable humanist, and his “Hierarchy of Needs” that culminates in self-actualization remains a mainstream tool into the present day. It is also a non-pathologizing form of psychology, so a humanistic psychologist probably would not diagnose Roger with any disorder. Instead, they would say that his needs are not being met, and therefore he is not reaching his potential. They would then probably work with Roger to help him meet all of his needs—physical, emotional, etc.—all the way up to self-actualization.
Cognitive psychology focuses on mental processes and examining how an individual thinks. A precursor to this theory was Gestalt theory, which said that psychologists need to focus on the whole of a person’s perception and experience in order to understand, rather than just one piece. In Roger’s case, this means that a cognitive psychologist would been more interested in how Roger thought about different events, relationships, etc., rather than determining a concrete, objective truth. For example, if Roger thought that someone had betrayed him, and that is what triggered his depression—the other underlying factors, like stress, school, and relationships that this would have set off would also be examined by a cognitive psychologist—then it would not matter if that individual actually did betray him. In terms of therapy, a cognitive psychologist could either affirm Roger’s beliefs, or he could have Roger work on changing his perceptions. This would be particularly helpful if he was convinced that everyone he knew hated him, or that certain individual was actively trying to hurt him, and those claims were unsubstantiated.
Each of this schools of thought have some merit, but they are used in different areas and at different levels in the present day. The generally accepted model in the United States at present is the biopsychosocial model. Cognitive psychology and psychoanalysis feed directly into this model, since all factors of a person’s life and self are considered (like in cognitive psychology), and then those factors are analyzed to understand how they are unconsciously affecting the patient (as in psychoanalysis). Behavioral psychology is also used today, but more as a medical approach. For example, determining if there is a biological problem causing symptoms, or using medication to counteract those symptoms, is using the cause and effect relationship central to behavioral psychology. Humanistic approaches have fallen out of favor today for clinical work, since it does not lend itself well to treatment of serious disorders—”you are just not reaching your potential” is generally recognized as an unhelpful statement for treating depression. However, humanistic ideas, like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is still widely used in business, academia, and the military, in order to teach managers and superiors how to lead their subordinates effectively by meeting their needs and investing in the development of their people. It is also a popular “self-help” tool that pops up every once in a while in pop culture.
There have been, and continue to be, several different approaches in psychology, all of which provide some benefit to the study of the human mind. In addition, they are not restrictive—one can combine pieces of psychoanalysis, behavioral psychology, humanistic psychology, and cognitive psychology in order to understand and treat different individuals with different challenges. Today, this is generally done using the biopsychosocial model, but as the field continues to develop and specialize, the future may hold a new and improved approach helps us better understand ourselves and those around us.