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History: Schools of Thought

The history of modern theories and treatments of psychopathology has been dominated by particular schools of thought, including psychodynamic, humanistic, behavioral, and cognitive behavioral. Although the timelines and boundaries of these schools are intermingled and diffused, the notion of “schools” remains a convenient handle for ordering a complex history. This entry discusses each of these schools briefly, offering an outline of their historical context and some discussion of major figures, events, and themes.

The Biomedical Perspective

Predating the psychotherapeutic schools is a generally medical or biological approach to therapy. Treatment approaches that could be called “biological”—primarily physical (e.g., surgery, restraints, electrical treatments) and drug interventions—have always been integral to mental health treatment, but these do not constitute a separate school. Instead, these approaches reflect the medical ...

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