Psychopathology: Cognitive and Psychodynamic Model

A cognitive approach to psychopathology is associated with the notion that conscious thought is able to change a person’s emotional state and their response to a particular stimulus (Sue et al., 2013). Cognitive models suggest that individual interpretations of various situations become determinants of behavior. According to the proponents of cognitive approach, the difference in responses to similar events by people can be explained by variations in their schema (Sue et al., 2013). Therefore, cognitive psychologists point to the maladaptive assumptions that are influenced by an individual’s previous experiences while searching for causes of mental illness (Sue et al., 2013).

Psychodynamic models explain abnormal behavior as the result of childhood trauma or underlying anxieties (Sue et al., 2013). Theorists of psychodynamic models believe that childhood-based traumas and anxieties are usually repressed by mental defense mechanism; therefore, they operate at an unconscious level.

According to psychologists that support psychodynamic perspective, mental illness is a result of an unconscious conflict that does not have conscious manifestation due to the ego-protection strategies that might distort the reality of an individual (Sue et al., 2013). Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous theoreticians of psychodynamic models who believed that abnormal behaviors could be treated with the help of a therapist providing a patient with insight into their unconscious processes (Sue et al., 2013).

Recent research suggests that irrational motivational biases could be influenced in order to change cognitive process in addiction (Wiers, Gladwin, Hofmann, Salemink, & Ridderinkhof, 2013). According to the findings of a study of psychodynamic psychotherapy for children and adults, short-term psychodynamic models are effective in the treatment of a wide range of mental disorders (Abbass, Rabung, Leichsenring, Refseth, & Midgley, 2013). However, taking into consideration that childhood-based traumas occur at the age when interpretations of events cannot be consciously controlled by individuals, it is safe to argue that psychodynamic perspective plays a bigger role in the development of disorders than a cognitive one.


Abbass, A., Rabung, S., Leichsenring, F., Refseth, J., & Midgley, N. (2013). Psychodynamic psychotherapy for children and adolescents: a meta-analysis of short-term psychodynamic models. Journal of The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 52(8), 863-875.

Sue, D., Sue, D., & Sue, S. (2013). Understanding abnormal behaviour (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Wiers, R., Gladwin, T., Hofmann, W., Salemink, E., & Ridderinkhof, K. (2013). Cognitive bias modification and cognitive control training in addiction and related psychopathology: mechanisms, clinical perspectives, and ways forward. Clinical Psychological Science, 1(2), 192-212.