Somatic therapies stem from the expectance of the medical model of
Psychology. They are therapies which take a physical or physiological
approach, Somatic means ‘to do with the body.”
Therapies focus on altering how the brain and body are working with the aim
of reducing or removing the symptoms the patient is suffering from. The
three main treatment groups are chemical, physical and electrical.
The treatment known as Chemotherapy is the most successful of all to date.
Chemotherapy is used to correct the balance of chemicals in the body
through application of drugs.
Two main drug groups are MAOIs and Tricycles. MAIOs work by inhibiting
monoamine oxides, which in turn causes the levels of serotonin in the body.
Tricycles slow down the reabsorb ion of seratonin in the body so it can
continue to stimulate the poilsyaplic neuron.
Chemotherapy tends to take responsibility away from the patient and onto
the psychiatrist or therapist.
The main disadvantage of this kind of treatment is it treats the symptoms
but not the cause of the problem as a result there is the danger that the
symptoms will reappear once the course of medication comes to an end. For
this reason chemotherapy is often combined with a different therapy.
However the advantage of chemotherapy is that patients do not have to be
institutionalised while under treatment and aggressive or extremely
delusional patients can be treated with drugs illuminating the need for
forceful and sometimes brutal restraints. However there is the question as
to whether this type of treatment is to benefit the institution/society or
Chemotherapy is useful for treating mental illnesses caused by biochemical
abnormalities such as forms of depression and schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is commonly treated with the use of Neuroleptic drugs such as
thioxantheus. These drugs reduce the positive symptoms of schizophrenia
such as delusions but have little affect on the negative ones.
Windgassen (1992) found that despite their usefulness neuroleptic drugs
could have serious limitations due to their side effects. Half the patients
undergoing treatment for schizophrenia stated they experienced sedation,
18% experienced problems with concentration and 16% suffered from blurred
For these reasons only the smallest possible dose of neuroleptic drugs are
given to the patient and patients often have ‘drug holidays’ where
medication is not administrated.
Electro convulsive therapy or ECT is another treatment, which is quite
drastic and used as a last resort. It has been found to be very successful
in treating patients suffering from severe depression although the reasons
for the treatment’s success are not clear, it’s mode is indeterminate.
In broad terms ECT works by inducing an artificial electric shock by
passing a currant of electricity through the brain. The treatment is
accompanied by muscle relaxants and repeated on about six occasions,
usually every other day.
The third kind of treatment is physical and involves surgery on the brain;
again this is last resort treatment for mental illness.
Some forms of surgery such as the leucotomy are deigned to produce a
general change in behaviour while others have a specific purpose such as
the severing of the corpus callosum that is used to treat severe epilepsy.