NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals

NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals

Many studies have found that psychotherapy is as effective as psychopharmacology in terms of influencing changes in behaviors, symptoms of anxiety, and changes in mental state. Changes influenced by psychopharmacology can be explained by the biological basis of treatments. But how does psychotherapy achieve these changes? Does psychotherapy share common neuronal pathways with psychopharmacology? For this Discussion, consider whether psychotherapy also has a biological basis. NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals



Learning Objectives


Students will:
  • Evaluate biological basis of psychotherapy treatments
  • Analyze influences of culture, religion, and socioeconomics on personal perspectives of psychotherapy treatments

To prepare:

  • Review this week’s Learning Resources.
  • Reflect on foundational concepts of psychotherapy.

By Day 3

Post an explanation of whether psychotherapy has a biological basis. Explain how culture, religion, and socioeconomics might influence one’s perspective of the value of psychotherapy treatments. Support your rationale with evidence-based literature.

Discussion: Does Psychotherapy Have a Biological Basis?

Evidence of a Biological Base in Psychotherapy.

It is likely that there are biological changes that take place when a person receives effective psychotherapy.  Some chemicals that are known to be related to stress; such as cortisol, can be measured to show how much of that chemical an individual produces while under stress (Holttum, 2014).  People and animals are known to have more cortisol in their bodies when under extended periods of moderate to high stress; showing that emotion can be tied to physiological changes in the body (Holttum, 2014).  Therefore, it seems logical that having the ability to lower stress and anxiety (through methods learned during psychotherapy), can also lower cortisol levels in the body.  Lowering cortisol levels in an individual’s body changes that individual’s physique.  Holttum (2014) describes studies that link childhood trauma with schizophrenia.  Schizophrenic brains can be x-rayed with the subsequent images showing irregularities in the brain-either through physical structure or activity (Fournier, Price, 2015).  Brain structure can also be imaged after a period of psychotherapy and show some physiological changes, which are most likely attributed to a lowering of cortisol levels as well as more regular brain activity (Fournier, Price, 2015). NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals

Influences on Psychotherapy Treatments

Other variables like culture, religion, and socioeconomics influence an individual’s belief about the usefulness of psychotherapy.  People of a Hispanic background might be less likely to engage in psychotherapy to cope with mental illness.  The Hispanic peoples of the U.S. tend to be under insured and might also have language barriers, which prevents larger numbers of this ethnicity from seeking help from a psychotherapist (Merianos, Vidourek, & King, 2017).  Additionally, individuals of Hispanic culture might be less likely to seek out psychotherapy due to stigma associated with mental illness or because of a preference to treat mental illness with traditional medicine practices (Merianos, Vidourek, & King, 2017).

In summary, it has long been accepted that mental illnesses have a biological basis.  Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that psychotherapy also has a biological basis that can be studied and measured.  Additionally, many factors affect an individual’s likelihood to seek out psychotherapy and the therapy’s ability to be effective.  These factors include religion, socioeconomic status, and culture amongst others. NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals



Holttum S. (2014). When bad things happen our brains change but psychotherapy and support can help the recovery of our brains and our lives. Mental Health and Social Inclusion 18(2), 52-58.  doi: 10.11088MHSI-02-2014-0006

Fournier, J. C., & Price, R. B. (2014). Psychotherapy and neuroimaging. Psychotherapy: New Evidence and New Approaches, 12(3), 290-298. Retrieved from

Merianos, A., Vidourek, R., & King, K. (2017). Effective Prevention Strategies for Increasing Health Services Utilization Among Hispanic Youth. Community Mental Health Journal53(1), 79–91.



I enjoyed reading your post it was informative.

Depression is a serious mental health condition which people sometimes underestimate or take lightly.  Studies have shown for depressed adolescents, both CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy are well-established interventions, and there is supporting evidence noted multiple trials (Weersing, Jeffreys, Do, Schwartz & Bolano, 2017). There was an article that I read that discusses how people with anxiety or another kind of mood disorder can lead to other illnesses (Jyrä, Knekt & Lindfors, 2017).When people were treated with psychotherapy the chances of developing chronic illness decreased, therefore I agree that psychotherapy has an influence on people’s health in a positive way. I was reminded of the function of cortisol. It is important in the regulatory function of the body’s biological systems like metabolic and immune responses (O’Connor, Branley-Bell, Green, Ferguson, O’Carroll & O’Connor, 2020). I agree with your views on cortisol. NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals


Jyrä, K., Knekt, P., & Lindfors, O. (2017). The impact of psychotherapy treatments of different length and type on health behaviour during a five-year follow-up. Psychotherapy Research27(4), 397–409.

O’Connor, D. B., Branley-Bell, D., Green, J. A., Ferguson, E., O’Carroll, R. E., & O’Connor, R. C. (2020). Effects of childhood trauma, daily stress, and emotions on daily cortisol levels in individuals vulnerable to suicide. Journal of Abnormal Psychology129(1), 92–107.

Weersing, V. R., Jeffreys, M., Do, M.-C. T., Schwartz, K. T. G., & Bolano, C. (2017). Evidence Base Update of Psychosocial Treatments for Child and Adolescent Depression. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology: The Official Journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 5346(1), 11–43.  NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals

response 2

As investigation into the brains of people with mental illness expands, we are learning that mental illness is associated with changes in the brain’s structure, chemistry, and function and that mental illness does indeed have a biological basis.  The fields of neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology address different aspects of the relationship between the biology of the brain and individuals’ behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, and how their actions sometimes get out of control (Woolfson ,2019)

Some examples of changes in the brain’s chemistry are:  The level of serotonin is lower in individuals who have depression. There may be disruptions in the neurotransmitters dopamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine in those who have schizophrenia.  One indication that dopamine might be an important neurotransmitter in schizophrenia comes from the observation that cocaine addicts sometimes show symptoms similar to schizophrenia. Cocaine acts on dopamine-containing neurons in the brain to increase the amount of dopamine in the synapse (State & Geschwind, 2015, p. 3).  Genes also play a role in determining whether someone develops a mental illness. NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals



Woolfson, A. (2019). The biological basis of mental illness. Nature, 566(7743), 180-181. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-00521-2

State, M. W., & Geschwind, D. H. (2015). Leveraging Genetics and Genomics to Define the Causes of Mental Illness. Biological Psychiatry77(1), 3–5.  NRNP 6640: Psychotherapy With Individuals