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Biological Basis of Psychotherapy


For any nation or people to thrive, they must enjoy optimal health functioning, including mental well-being, wellness, and health. Mental health illnesses affect people in their important areas of functioning, such as occupational, social, and educational experiences. Moreover, mentally ill individuals cannot work productively, deal with conflicting emotions, relate to others, control their actions, or experience joy and love. These underscore the essence of people enjoying optimal mental health and functioning. There are various treatment approaches to assist patients in attaining back their mental functioning or appropriately adapting to their conditions. The most common ones include pharmacologic and psychotherapy approaches. In this paper, I will analyze whether psychotherapy has a biological basis, the factors influencing people’s perspectives on psychotherapy’s value, and the ethical and legal considerations for group and individual therapy and how they differ.

Biological Basis for Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a treatment approach that uses talk therapy and other psychological techniques or approaches to assist people in changing their emotions, thoughts, or behaviors causing distress or other problems. According to Locher et al. (2019), psychotherapy is considered the main healthcare management for mental health illnesses and is effective for many somatic, psychological, and behavioral symptoms, problems, or disorders. Psychotherapy has a biological basis, supported by various reasons. For instance, psychotherapy latches onto the biological regulators that control the brain’s complex responses. Moreover, psychotherapy results in the re-elaboration of one’s sense of self and others through learning and achieving new experiences encompassing cognitive, emotional, and internal regulation processes, further supporting the biological basis for psychotherapy (Javanbakht & Alberini, 2019).

Furthermore, the comprehensive, lasting, and measurable physical changes in the brain following successful psychotherapy further support its biological basis. Javanbakht and Alberini (2019) assert that prolonged exposure to psychotherapy leads to neurobiological enhancements that impact the neural circuits related to PTSD (posttraumatic stressor disorder). Moreover, Jiménez et al. (2018) posit that extant research has increasingly supported that psychotherapy is associated with epigenetic changes that can be potentially passed to other generations, further demonstrating its biological basis. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, has modulatory effects on the ventral limbic and dorsal cognitive networks in patients with depression (Chalah & Ayache, 2018). However, large-scale randomized controlled trials are needed to elucidate the neural mechanisms of CBT in treating major depressive disorder.

Factors Influencing One’s Perspective on the Value of Psychotherapy Treatments

Various factors, including socioeconomics, culture, and religious perspectives, influence and determine compliance and perceived value and effectiveness of psychotherapy approaches. Culture and religion play a significant role in conceptualizing mental illnesses and explaining experienced illnesses, health, or distress (Moleiro, 2018). Furthermore, cultural and religious beliefs influence people’s perceptions of treatment approaches (including psychotherapy) and the stigmatization associated with mental illnesses. For instance, some cultures believe that mental illnesses arise from curses or punishments for wrongdoings by preceding generations. Thus, treatment can only be achieved through divine interventions, miracles, and cultural rituals. Therefore, such people do not see any value in modern treatment approaches such as psychopharmacology and psychotherapy.

On the other hand, socioeconomic factors are associated with mental illnesses. For instance, poverty and environmental factors are related to the onset of mental health illnesses. People living in poverty cannot access safe, high-quality, and effective treatment approaches for themselves or their loved ones, insinuating they cannot understand or benefit from the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Moreover, Levi et al. (2018) note that financial constraints lead to psychological treatment dropout and cognitive maladies such as poor cognitive flexibility, self-regulation, and elevated stress that further lower the perceived effectiveness of psychotherapy treatment. Furthermore, people living in poverty are more likely to default on therapies and consider them ineffective.

Legal and Ethical Considerations for Group, Family, and Individual Therapy

While individual therapy involves a therapist and one person or client to help the latter work through their situations, concerns, emotions, and thoughts, group therapy involves more than one client being treated by a therapist simultaneously (American Addiction Centers, 2022). Individual and group therapy differ in several salient principles. For instance, individual therapy offers higher confidentiality, more individualized attention, full customization to meet the client’s unique needs, and a strong therapeutic alliance. Therefore, the therapist must always maintain patient privacy and confidentiality and avoid sharing patient details with unauthorized parties. On the other hand, despite assuring clients that they are not alone in their situations, group therapy has less confidentiality, potential for social loafing, less focused therapeutic alliance, and people do not receive more individualized attention (American Addiction Centers, 2022). Furthermore, people may be less willing to disclose their details in group therapy for fear of breached privacy and confidentiality.

Therefore, the therapist must foster trust and enhance privacy and confidentiality in family and individual therapy. Moreover, therapists must only share the details clients have permitted them. It is also necessary that the therapist in family or group therapies communicate the details therapists expect clients to share and how the information will be treated or handled. In group therapy, the therapist must ensure all participants feel that their needs or challenges are appreciated and show regard to foster a more therapeutic alliance.


As elicited in this paper, psychotherapy is an effective treatment approach for psychiatry and mental health illnesses. However, more research is needed to elucidate the biological basis for the therapy. Furthermore, healthcare professionals must be aware of the factors influencing the perceived value and effectiveness of psychotherapy and address them appropriately. Moreover, therapists must be aware of the legal and ethical considerations of family and individual therapies and how they impact the therapeutic approaches for their clients.

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