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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    If a lot of mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia involve chemical imbalances inside the brain, why do therapists use a behavioural approach?

    Is it really effective?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Richard Hill

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Resident counsellor/psychotherapist at the Davis Health Centre with a solution focused approach; an international lecturer on the neuroscience and psychosocial genomics of human behaviour; author … View Profile

    This is the chicken and the egg approach question. Which comes first? The behavior? The chemical changes? Does behavior alter our brain? Does our brain alter behavior? And really the answer that we are starting to come up with now is that it is a yes to all questions. It is a bi-directional interaction and we really, in science have shot ourselves in the foot for a long time by disconnecting and disengaging elements of our understandings and behaviors this and neurochemicals of that and forgetting the fact that there is an interplay of activity in our whole body; from the DNA all the way up to the organs and the whole basis, the whole body in itself. We need to pay attention to that. What we are finding is that your thoughts, the way you are thinking can alter the way in which your genes express themselves. Genes are not fixed in their response and they alter depending upon your environment, on what you are thinking, and upon how you are feeling.

    The question asks why therapists use behavioral approaches. They predominantly use a cognitive behavior approach which includes activity and thinking to try and alter the responses that cause our genes to express and create this interplay of activity within our body and hopefully take us towards an element of feeling better. Behavioral and cognitive behavioral therapies are still effective because we are not a one-directional being. We are a two directional being and everything affects everything.

  • Dr Clive Jones

    Counselling Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Sport Psychologist

    Dr Clive Jones is a registered psychologist specialising in the assessment and treatment of mental health issues and disorders and High Performance Sport psychology. He … View Profile

    A behavioral approach is effective because chemical imbalances in the brain aren't necessarily the cause of something like depression. They can actually be a symptom. While you might use medication to help treat the symptom, it won't necessarily treat the cause. In that context, a lot of behavioral approaches may actually be ways to address the actual cause within the broader environment that the individual is in, and that environment might be the thing that is getting them depressed, for example.

    Regarding schizophrenia, behavioural approaches help by teaching and equipping the individual with a whole range of different skills to deal with their environement and broader social interactions in a more constructive and healthy way.

  • 1


    Angela Marshall

    HealthShare Member

    Frmon a personal point of view I experienced a head injury 2 years ago. This caused a chemical
    imbalance in my brain and I then had to struggle with severe depression, suicidal thoughts, anger that just erupts and other physical syptoms in my body.
    It took over a year before a doctor put me on antidepressants and then 2 years before I paid
    for a 6 week course of CBT.
    I actually enjoyed the course and understood its concepts but i didnt find it could help me as
    my depression is so severe (I also have PTSD).
    I think I need my medication more fine tuned to my chemical / hormone imbalances.
    Then a CBT course with specialisation in PTSD and its horrors every night.
    So I agree with what you have stated above but each individual is different and needs
    an individual approach by treating specialists.

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