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ABC theory of psychopathology

Albert Ellis's theory of psychopathology, in which A refers to activating conditions, B to belief systems and C to emotional consequences.

antidepressant medications

Biological treatment of depression that increases the amount of norepinephrine and/or serotonin available in synapses.

antipsychotic medications

Medications used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic states, which have sedating effects and reduce positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.

automatic thoughts

The things people say spontaneously to themselves, which can lead to irrational feelings and behaviours.

behavioural analysis

In cognitive-behavioural therapy, the process of assessing the symptom and the stimuli or thoughts associated with it.


Antianxiety medications that indirectly affect the action of norepinephrine.

client-centred therapy

A therapeutic approach developed by Carl Rogers, based on the assumption that psychological difficulties result from incongruence between one's concept of self and one's actual experience, and that empathy is curative.

clinical psychologist

A psychologist who delivers services in a health care setting such as a hospital or mental health facility.


Approach in clinical psychology in which practitioners integrate an understanding of classical and operant conditioning with a cognitive-social perspective.

cognitive therapy

A psychological treatment that focuses on the thought processes that underlie psychological symptoms.

common factors

Shared elements in psychotherapies that produce positive outcomes.

eclectic psychotherapy

Psychotherapy in which psychologists combine techniques from different approaches to fit the particular case.

effectiveness studies

Studies that assess the outcome of psychotherapy as it is practised in the field rather than in the laboratory.

efficacy studies

Studies that assess psychotherapy outcome under highly controlled conditions, such as random assignment of patients to different treatment or control groups, careful training of therapists to adhere to a manual, and standardised length of treatment.

electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

A last-resort treatment for severe depression, in which an electric shock to the brain is used to induce a seizure.

empty chair technique

A technique associated with Gestalt therapy, in which clients practise emotional expression by imagining that the person to whom they would like to speak is seated in an empty chair.

exposure techniques

Behaviour therapy techniques based on classical conditioning in which the patient is confronted with the actual phobic stimulus.

family therapy

A psychological treatment that attempts to change maladaptive interaction patterns among members of a family.


Cognitive-behavioural technique designed to eliminate phobias, in which the patient confronts the real phobic stimulus all at once.

free association

The therapeutic technique for exploring associational networks and unconscious processes involved in symptom formation.


A map of a family over three or four generations, drawn by a therapist to explore possible similarities between current difficulties and the family's past.

Gestalt therapy

A psychological treatment based on the assumption that psychological distress results from losing touch with one's emotions and one's authentic inner voice, and that focusing on the 'here and now' is curative.

graded exposure

A modified version of the behaviourist flooding technique for treating anxiety, in which stimuli are real but are presented to the patient in a gradual manner.

group process

The interactions among members of a group.

group therapy

A treatment method in which multiple people meet together to work toward therapeutic goals.

humanistic therapies

Psychological treatments that focus on the patient's conscious or lived experience and on the way each person uniquely experiences relationships and the world.


In learning theory, the ability to perceive a connection between a problem and its solution; in psychodynamic treatments, the understanding of one's own psychological processes.

integrative psychotherapy

Psychotherapy that uses an approach developed from theories that cut across theoretical lines.


A therapeutic technique whereby the therapist helps the patient understand his or her experiences in a new light.


The drug treatment of choice for bipolar disorder.

MAO inhibitors

Antidepressant medication that keeps the chemical MAO from breaking down neurotransmitter substances in the presynaptic neuron, which makes more neurotransmitter available for release into the synapse.

marital therapy

Psychotherapy that treats a couple; also called couples therapy.

couples therapy

Psychotherapy that treats a couple; also called marital therapy.


A statistical technique that allows researchers to combine findings from various studies and make comparisons between the effects of treatment and no treatment.

multidisciplinary team

Professionals drawn together from a range of specialities to carry out required tasks in a health facility.

negative reciprocity

The tendency of members of a couple to respond to negative comments or actions by their partner with negative behaviours in return.

participatory modelling

A cognitive-behavioural technique in which the therapist models desired behaviour and gradually induces the patient to participate in it.


An intensive therapeutic process in which the patient meets with the therapist three to five times a week, lies on a couch, and uses free association, interpretation and transference.

psychodynamic psychotherapy

A form of psychotherapy based on psychodynamic principles, in which the patient meets the therapist somewhat less frequently than in psychoanalysis and sits face to face with the therapist.


Brain surgery to reduce psychological symptoms.

psychotherapy integration

The use of theory or technique from multiple theoretical perspectives.

psychotropic medications

Drugs that act on the brain to affect mental processes.

rational-emotive behaviour therapy

A psychological treatment in which the therapist helps uncover and alter the illogical thoughts that provoke psychological distress.


Barriers to psychotherapy created by the patient in an effort to reduce anxiety.

response prevention

Preventing the patient from producing responses that allow avoidance of the feared stimulus.

scientist-practitioner model

The model whereby psychology students are taught the science of psychology and later trained as applied psychologists.

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)

A class of antidepressant medications, including Prozac, that blocks the presynaptic membrane from taking back serotonin, and hence leaves it acting longer in the synapse.

self-help groups

Groups that are leaderless or guided by a non-professional, in which members assist each other in coping with a specific problem, as in Alcoholics Anonymous.

skills training

A technique that involves teaching behaviours or procedures for accomplishing specific goals.

social skills training

A cognitive-behavioural technique that involves instruction and modelling, and was designed to help people develop interpersonal competence.

systematic desensitisation

A cognitive-behavioural procedure in which the patient is induced to approach feared stimuli gradually, in a state that inhibits anxiety.

tardive dyskinesia

A serious, unpredictable, irreversible side effect of prolonged use of antipsychotic medications, in which a patient develops involuntary or semivoluntary twitching, usually of the tongue, face and neck.

therapeutic alliance

The patient's degree of comfort with the therapist, which allows him or her to speak about emotionally significant experiences.


The phenomenon in which the patient displaces thoughts, feelings, fears, wishes and conflicts from past relationships, especially childhood relationships, onto the therapist.

tricyclic antidepressant

A class of medications for depression that compensates for depleted neurotransmitters.

unconditional positive regard

An attitude of total acceptance expressed by the therapist toward the client in client-centred therapy.

virtual reality exposure therapy

treatment for phobias in which virtual images of the feared stimulus are shown, as opposed to the actual stimulus.

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