SGPsychStud: Current Trends in Psychology

In the early 1900s, it was psychoanalysis, also dubbed the "talking cure", spearheaded by Sigmund Freud.  In the 1950s, it was humanistic psychology, also referred to the "third force" alongside with psychoanalysis and behaviourism.

What about now??

1. Positive psychology and happiness


TED Video: "The new era of positive psychology" featuring Martin Seligman

Positive psychology research was led by psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihaly and this has been looked at in detail for the last 15 years.  Here is one of the early APA posts from 2001 regarding positive psychology.
These have give rise to many other topics, such as mental toughness and grit, and improving overall mental health.  This has also led to psychology being more accepted in other areas and industries, such as business, organisations and sport.

TED Video: "The key to success? Grit" featuring Angela Lee Duckworth

With people starting to be more self-reflective after the introduction of humanistic psychology, the main question that most will ask themselves is: "What do I want in my life?"  The answer (for most) would be: "Happiness".  However, the next question is "how do we be more happy?"  Here's the science to it:

TED video: "The surprising science of happiness" featuring Dan Gilbert

In a nutshell, the happiness you get from a past or present or future action / event / occasion depends on your current perception of the action / event / occasion, and it will change with time because your perception might change with time.

2. Eastern philosophy approaches to psychology


With the pursue of happiness, science has start to turn towards the eastern approaches, i.e. Buddhism.  This is especially attributed to news of brain scans finding that Matthieu Ricard, a French scientist-turned-Buddhist-monk, has the largest capacity for happiness and joy.  This was said to be attributed to his many years of meditation, which in the modern and psychological context was termed as "mindfulness".  This created quite a spark in different areas of research and applied practice, such that a talk was given on 06 November 2013 at NUS, with an attendance of more than 1800 people.  I had also covered it in my summary post of "Psychology Happenings in Singapore 2013".

With mindfulness being in trend, it has led to the rise of a new type of psychotherapy: Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.  Is this new type of psychotherapy effective?
Based on a 2010 meta-analysis published in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the authors found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is moderately effective for anxiety and mood disorders.  Another 2013 meta-analysis published in Clinical Psychology Review concluded that it "is an effective treatment for a variety of psychological problems, and is especially effective for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress" (p. 763).

3. Internet-based research and provision of treatment 


As technology tends towards the use of computers and the Internet, there is a lot of things that has been changed to fit this trend.  With the Internet, it has definitely brought people "closer", allowing researchers and academics who are in different countries or different regions to conduct research together, or even allow a therapist to help a client, who might be in a different area, face-to-face and in real time.
In developed countries, there are very few people without a smartphone.  This have led to mobile apps that are specifically used for and by psychologists and their clients.  APA has also embarked and accepted the idea of mobile psychology.  This topic will also be covered in the upcoming SPS pre-AGM (Annual General Meeting) talk by Maureen Neihart and Gloria Law, titled: "Mobile Behavioural Health: The Future of Intervention?" (p. 22 of the SPS eZine)

However, with positives that are brought on with this new smart technology, there are also the negatives:
-  Blurring of ethics for online research
Ethics is a very big and essential component in research, with the protection of the participants' confidentiality and safety being of utmost importance.  Another part of ethics is informed consent, where participant consent to participating in the research and will be allowed to withdraw from it at any point of time.
The use of internet as a medium to do research is so common now that universities, such as Stanford University, and even BPS have written up ethical guidelines for internet research.  However this is still non-existent in Singapore.

A huge issue was made when Facebook allowed some researchers to manipulate the news-feed content of about 700,000 Facebook users in January 2012, in order to investigate if "people's moods could spread like an 'emotional contagion' depending on the type of the content that they were reading".  The conclusion of the study was that people were more likely to post negative updates about their lives after a reduction in volume of positive information appearing in their Facebook feeds.  Although the results of the study was very substantial with more than 700,000 participants, it created a huge outcry by Facebook users as there was no consent given by the participants to Facebook to do such a study.

-  Internet addiction
This is the latest type of addiction, as a result of too much Internet usage, with its main population being youths.  It is currently not in the DSM-V, and psychiatrists are debating on whether it should be classified as a addiction, as it is difficult to measure and classify the negative effects of internet use.  However, the symptoms are as real as any other addiction.  Probably more time is needed to do more research on this topic.

4. Tackling Mental Health Stigma


ChannelNewsAsia video: Interview on Mental Health (06/11/2013)

In recent years, this is a common topic that has been discussed in Singapore.  With the establishment of CHAT (Community Health Assessment Team) by IMH, this has started a trend with different initiations being set up to reduce the stigma in mental health issues and disorders. These include:
  • The Tapestry Project SG:  An independent platform aimed at restoring hope and reclaiming dignity among individuals with mental health challenges.
  • EmbraceD:  A social campaign aimed at raising awareness of depression and empowering friends and family to be caregivers to those sick with depression.
  • Drop That Label:  An NUS student-led initiative by CHAT to get our NUS peers to drop the labels of stigma we place on those with mental health issues.
  • Speak Your Mind SG:  An initiative to improve the mental well-being of teachers
Disclaimer: The information about the initiations are from their respective websites or Facebook pages.

There are actually others out there, helping to reduce mental health stigma, and some in their own ways and methods.  One example is "The Days that We Wander/Wonder", a visual arts exhibition promoting mental well-being through art.  This exhibition is held over the course of March to May in 2015.  Visit their Facebook Event Page to know where and what is being featured!

A personal note: SG Psych Stuff is a supporter of these initiatives to tackle mental health stigma.  I believe that with more knowledge, we will truly learn about them.  Hence it is very important to accept those with mental health issues and disorders and learn more about them and their lives, rather than to just reject and label them from the very beginning.

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