Brief explanation of main approaches used in psychology

Psychology is about understanding our mind and how it impacts on our behaviour. It looks into communication, memory, thoughts and emotions; Understanding what drives our decisions, actions, thoughts and feelings allows us to address any challenges we might be facing.

There are five major approaches in psychology. These are biological, psychodynamic, behavioural, cognitive and humanistic. Each approach attempts to explain human behaviour differently. An approach is a view that involves certain assumptions about human behaviour. There are many different theories within an approach, but they all share the same assumptions.

This post will briefly explain main approaches in psychology and will discuss the approach that is most widely used nowadays in mental health. The aim of this post is to provide some understanding of different perspectives.

Main assumption of behavioural approach is that all behaviours are learned through interactions with the environment. When you think of people in laboratories wearing long white coats and observing rats, these are behavioural psychologists. They acknowledge emotions however they believe only behaviour can be objectively and scientifically measured.

Psychodynamic approach starts with Sigmund Freud. His theory of psychoanalysis is one of the biggest steps in the field of psychology. This approach explains our behaviour through our childhood experiences. It looks back at our childhood to make sense of our actions in the present. It believes our choices are heavily influenced by our unconscious mind.

Humanistic approach focuses on the view that each person is unique and has free will to change at any time in their life. It believes we are responsible for our own happiness. It emphasises how our perception of the world is subjective therefore it is an opposing approach to any scientific attempts to explain human behaviour.

Cognitive psychology is about knowing the processes that happen in our minds. It studies cognition, which are the processes through which knowledge is acquired. Memory, perception and attention are examples of these processes.

Biological perspective revolves around the view that all thoughts, feelings and behaviour have a biological cause. It studies brain and genetics. It believes that most of our behaviour is inherited and can be explained using neurological terms.

Nowadays cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most widely used approach to help people overcome challenges. This approach combines assumptions of cognitive and behavioural perspective. It states that our thoughts, feelings and behaviour are all connected.

Main assumptions of CBT are:

  • Our challenges come from developing faulty thoughts about others, our world and us.
  • These faulty thoughts cause distortions in the way we see things, they make us think irrationally.
  • We live in this world through making sense of our experiences, the way we process information makes us form certain views and beliefs about oneself, others and the world around us. If these beliefs are inaccurate or our ways of reasoning are inadequate, then our emotions and behaviour may become distorted.

CBT’s aim is to change our negative thinking patterns. This negative thinking patterns result in unwanted emotions and behaviour.

Psychology is a fascinating field that allows us to understand ourselves and the world around us. This understanding is crucial to overcome any challenges in life. Each approach in psychology brings something new to this understanding. It is our personal choice which one speaks to us the most.