As technology evolves and science finds new things to make our lives easier, psychology is not a thing of the past either. The way we treat mental health problems has evolved considerably over time.
First wave therapy
In its early days, psychology began to treat mental health problems with the first wave therapy we call today. This way of working on mental health meant learning methods and “learning”: action-reaction behavior. Basically, the stimulus and the way you’ve learned to experience it will determine your reaction.
And your reactions would become stronger or more likely the more you repeat them. You would quickly learn any behavior that is rewarded and it would fly up the ladder of your behavioral reaction. On the other hand, the reaction may disappear when it is no longer confirmed and it disappears even earlier if it was accompanied by some punishment.
The first wave helped us understand one of the most essential basic mechanisms: conditioning. So, of course, one of the most developed fields of psychology from that idea was educational psychology.
It found that the ideas of that teaching model were based on rewards and punishments. It also helped us understand how and why we create such strong associations between certain stimuli.
Second wave therapy
As the years went by, our way of treating mental health problems evolved. Next came second wave therapy. So how did this second generation change things?
People realized that we didn’t always act based on stimuli and reactions. So, there was really something between the two, but what could it be? It was the brain, the emotions, the cognition and the desires. Basically, the basic essence of every human being.
That’s why our way of thinking is so important when it comes to second wave therapy. We are what we learn, but also what we achieve from what we learn. The thoughts of the second wave meant that we were no longer passive; we were active. And that meant that our game margin in terms of performance actually multiplied.
Cognition leads us to face the world one way or another. So reality is important, but even more important is how you perceive reality and how you interpret it. That’s why second-wave therapy began to work on people’s attitudes, feelings, and prejudices.
Seeing ourselves as mere machines more awesome, able only to react based on what we had learned, also led to a survey of the second mind. A lot of effort was put into figuring out exactly what was going on in our “black box”. What makes us develop confusion or get such conflicting feelings? For example, how little amount of good luck can really make someone feel sad?
This new way of understanding our behavior would also shed light on a problem we still deal with today: measurement. So while it’s really easy for us to show how far the two places are apart, it’s hard for us to figure out exactly how much anxiety a person is experiencing.
Third wave therapy
The second wave helped us realize ourselves. But people were able to notice that despite the progress, there were still many mental health problems without good solutions. Thus was born the third wave of therapy.
In this therapy, it was found that we had not misunderstood the way to solve the problem; we had misunderstood our relationship with it. So people started trying to make people’s problems part of the process without trying to solve them directly.
The goal was for us to live with problems that had no solution (or at least no quick fix) without taking power or damaging our lives. This includes many current therapies. Some of these include, for example, awareness skills, accepting therapy, and so on.
The problem with such therapies is that it is difficult to conduct scientific studies on their effectiveness. That means there are serious psychologists who use third-wave therapy, but there are also fake therapists and unlicensed professionals. For that reason, some fields of psychology do not have much respect for such forms of therapy.
So now we have quickly gone through three waves of therapy in psychology. The way they differ in our understanding of our behavior, thoughts, and emotions has given us valuable insights.
Now that you’ve learned some of the ways psychology and our way of treating mental health problems have evolved, it’s probably easy to see why it’s so good to have different perspectives on thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. And if you think of it, is this diversity of viewpoints rewarding psychologists themselves. Each generation has given them different aids that they can put into their own practice.