4 pages, double spaced research paper, abnormal psychology, comparison of two models, due in 5 hours, 4 sources (1 book [pdf provided], + 3 scholarly sources), APA format. PM if interested

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Introduction & thesis

Abnormal psychology is a branch of psychology that attempts to understand the causes, nature and treatments of psychopathology. Two prominent models used by contemporary psychologists include the behavioral approach, which suggests that mental illness is caused and can be treated by learned experiences, and the cognitive approach, which instead emphasizes the role of irrational beliefs and faulty thought processes. This essay will argue that while each model is useful for illustrating a range of causes and treatments for mental illness, their relative strengths and weaknesses can be best harnessed when combined to form cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Overview of the behavioral model

  • The behavioral model suggests that abnormal behaviors are learned in response to internal or external stimuli
  • Behavioral psychologists are particularly concerned with principles of learning such as classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and mediational learning
  • Clinical treatments aim to correct problematic behaviors through the same learning mechanisms that are believed to cause psychopathology in the first place

Strengths and weaknesses

  • Empirical studies have found that abnormal behaviors can be successfully unlearned in a laboratory setting
  • Additionally, studies have found that behavioral treatments can help individuals suffering from compulsive behavior, mental retardation, fears, and social deficits
  • However, while studies have shown that behavioral treatments can work in clinical settings, it is not clear if their benefits extend into the real world
  • Some critics argue this is because behavioral therapies treat the symptoms but not the underlying causes of psychopathology

Overview of the cognitive approach

  • The cognitive approach attempts to understand mental illness in terms of faulty or irrational cognitive processes
  • Cognitive psychologists are concerned with how patients make assumptions, adopt attitudes, and use illogical thinking processes
  • Cognitive therapists aim to treat patients by helping them develop more functional ways of thinking. For example, cognitive therapy helps patients 1) identify negative thoughts and errors, 2) challenge their predominant beliefs, and 3) develop and apply new ways of thinking

Strengths and weaknesses

  • The cognitive approach is useful because, like the behavioral approach, it can be tested in a laboratory
  • Additionally, unlike the behavioral approach, it emphasizes the role of human thought
  • Empirical studies have found that it is effective in treating patients with depression, panic disorder, social phobia, and other problems.
  • However, the cognitive approach has been criticized for being too simplistic, and not considering other causes of abnormality
  • Additionally, studies have found that while cognitive therapy is very helpful to some individuals, the results are mixed across the board

A duality of perspectives

  • A common criticism of any singular psychological model is its inability to account for the wide complexity of factors that may cause mental illness in any particular individual
  • For this reason, increasing numbers of psychologists have combined the behavioral and cognitive perspectives to form cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy combines principles from both perspectives in order to treat both the underlying cognitive processes as well as alter uncontrolled behaviors that cannot be correct via rational thought alone


Comer, R. J. (2015). Abnormal psychology (9th ed.). New York: Worth.

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