Mad in America readers are familiar with the variety of negative effects caused by emphasizing biologically based treatments for psychological disorders. Yet, over the past five years, research has identified another negative consequence which, I think, is less well known: increased prognostic pessimism.
Long story short: numerous studies have found that individuals who more strongly endorse biological etiologies of psychological disorders tend to have increased prognostic pessimism (as well as viewing medications as more effective and psychotherapy as less credible). A prominent hypothesis explaining this phenomenon is that individuals who more strongly endorse biological etiologies seem to endorse “essentialist” views of themselves – meaning they are more likely to view their psychological states as predetermined and outside their influence or control. This is important because clients’ beliefs about their prognosis can have significant effects on their clinical outcomes. Clients who expect to do better typically do better.
The MIA article “More on the Chemical Imbalance Theory” refers to one of the studies I have in mind (Kemp, Lickel, & Deacon, 2014) and suggested that Kemp et al. is “one of the most important pieces of research in this field.” I agree. And I’ve recently published a review article which discusses the research that explores the relationship between individual’s beliefs regarding biological etiologies of depression and their treatment preferences and prognostic pessimism. I believe this is an important area of research which contributes to the case against contemporary mental health professionals’ preoccupation with biological etiologies.
Although my contract with the publisher prohibits me from posting the article on a webpage, I can share the article with individuals upon request. Please contact me at [email protected] if you are interested.
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Kemp, J. J., Lickel, J. J., & Deacon, B. J. (2014). Effects of a chemical imbalance causal explanation on individuals’ perceptions of their depressive symptoms. Behaviour research and therapy, 56, 47-52.