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Psychoeducation in psychological therapy

Psychoeducation in psychological therapy

June 30, 2024

The effective psychological treatments for psychological disorders known today are very varied and contemplate different blocks or steps, in fact, each psychological therapy has its idiosyncrasy.

However, within the framework of cognitive-behavioral therapy, there is a fundamental element in the face of adequate psychological intervention in certain mental disorders: the tool of psychoeducation . In this article we will explain in a simple way what this resource is and in what psychological disorders it is used more frequently, as well as some practical examples of its application.

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What is psychoeducation?

The psychoeducation, always carried out by the professional in charge of the treatment, constitutes the prelude to many of the psychological treatments applied in the consultations and hospitals. This does not mean that psychoeducation has to be used only at the beginning of the therapeutic process, but that can be dosed to ensure that the problem is understood by the patient or the client (or group of patients).

Thus, psychoeducation consists in the explanation by the psychologist in charge of the treatment of different psychological and variable constructs that explain the problem of the patient or group of patients. In general, the disorder is explained (although in many cases it is not necessary to label the problem as a "disorder" facing the patient, but to explain the characteristics of the problem so that he or she understands it and can deal with it more adaptively), how does the disorder affect the patient's life? patient, frequent symptoms, what treatments exist, what can be done to improve, and so on.

Sometimes, we will call psychoeducation all technical information that we explain in therapy that we consider necessary for the improvement of the patient. For example, how we become depressed, what functional and dysfunctional anxiety is, how marijuana influences the cerebral level, what repercussions induced vomiting has on our body ...

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Tools used in this type of psychological intervention

Even though each professional usually develops his psychoeducational script in the face of the sessions with the patients, it is important to emphasize that the content of the explanation must be adapted to the level of understanding and understanding of the person, and in most cases the resources that we will see below are usually useful. .

The use of analogies and metaphors

As psychological phenomena are often complex, it is good to make comparisons with elements of everyday life.

The use of a blackboard or visual support

It is very useful to interact with the patient while the explanation is given. For example, asking questions and having the patient respond based on their own experience).

Provide a summary of what was explained in the session (or sessions) of psychoeducation

This is so that the person can take it home, read it quietly and ask any questions about it.

Finally, to facilitate the process of psychoeducation and complement it, psychologists recommend the reading of didactic manuals on some problems (not with the aim of reading self-help manuals, but in order to better understand what happens to them and work together in the sessions). The viewing of films, documentaries, etc. are also useful.

Why is psychoeducation so important?

Psychoeducation is therapeutic in itself. Some patients often report that after having been able to take advantage of the psychoeducation sessions and to understand what is happening to them, they disintegrate like a "balloon", they feel calmer, with better expectations. In fact, many of the people who suffer from anxiety reduce symptomatology by understanding the mechanisms and causes of it .

The level of uncertainty of many people is directly reduced, and the typical type questions are answered: what is happening to me? Am I going crazy? Do you have a "solution"? happens to me or to more people ?.

In addition, in some cases and depending on the capabilities of the person, only with giving some psychoeducational guidelines in a few sessions the person gets to understand the mechanisms that underlie their problem and put into practice new strategies, which is very interesting and often positive for the person.

It is usually especially effective in group sessions with people who have similar problems (, a group with panic disorder), since the fact of sharing similar experiences and feeling emotional support is a very comforting experience. It is a very important help in the development of individual therapy for these people.

In what types of psychological problems is used?

In general terms, psychoeducation can be very useful as an initial phase of treatment in most disorders or documented psychological problems. As an example, this is widely used among professionals in well-known disorders such as:

  • Anxiety disorders : panic disorder, selective phobia, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder before the disease (hypochondria) ...
  • Bipolar disorder and related disorders.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Pathological mourning.
  • Eating Disorders : bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, ortorexia ...
  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Addictions .
  • Self-esteem problems: how low self-esteem is generated and maintained.

Practical examples

Next, we will briefly explain the contents that could be explained in a session of psychoeducation in anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychoeducation in anxiety disorders

It is convenient to explain what anxiety is (emotional response to danger / threat), the objective pursued (protect the organism-at this point the use of analogies or metaphors would be positive), the relationship between anxiety and the autonomic nervous system, the activation process that follows our body at a physical level before a situation of danger and explanation of all body sensations (muscle tension, increased heart rate, acceleration of breathing, dry mouth, tremor in the legs ...).

How our body reacts to situations of "no danger" in which the brain misinterprets that there is a danger, how the first panic attack can occur , the role played by our interpretations of bodily sensations, etcetera. Obviously, depending on the anxiety disorder we must emphasize some concepts or others.

Psychoeducation in post-traumatic stress disorder

This explanation it will vary depending on the type and frequency of the trauma that the victim has suffered.

An explanation is given about the typical intrusive responses (why distressing memories or nightmares occur), the function that fulfills the persistent avoidance of memories or stimuli associated with the event, the cognitive and mood alterations related to the episode (how exaggerated beliefs about oneself are formed), the important alteration of the activation and reactivity associated with the traumatic event (why it feels hypervigilant all the time, to what are the outbursts of fury or irritable behavior, the alterations of the dream…).

Furthermore, it is convenient to explain the maintenance of PTSD, for example by means of a simple adaptation of the Horowitz model (1986) or the Lang model (1988).

Therapeutic Games for Teens : Psychology & Mental Health (June 2024).

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