What are Psychosocial Interventions?

wiseGEEK Writer

Psychosocial interventions refer to different therapeutic techniques, usually classed as nonpharmacological (not involving medication), that address the psychological aspects of an individual or group and consider the person’s or group’s situation from a societal, familial perspective. Interventions can be evolved for a single person in treatment for a variety of diseases, best models of treatment may be suggested for groups that share a common illness like schizophrenia or erectile dysfunction, or psychologists and others develop interventions for groups that are undergoing great stressors, like being in the midst of a war or recovering from a natural disaster. Treatments planned vary depending on group or individual needs but all try to determine psychological treatments and social interventions that are most effective in promoting wellness.

Psychosocial interventions may include group therapy.
Psychosocial interventions may include group therapy.

Some things commonly considered as psychosocial interventions include very standard forms of therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has become a popular treatment type, especially due to its relatively short duration. The therapy is strongly oriented on teaching people to identify negative thinking patterns and replace them with more positive patterns. People taking this form of therapy do homework and gradually develop methods for more positively viewing and contextualizing situations.

Psychosocial interventions may include educating people about their condition.
Psychosocial interventions may include educating people about their condition.

Alternately, standard psychotherapy or other schools of therapy may be part of psychosocial interventions. It should be noted that any form of therapy would only be one aspect of interventions. To fully help the individual or group, other interventions are planned.

Psychosocial interventions promote wellness.
Psychosocial interventions promote wellness.

Other interventions include educating people about their condition or present state of existence. Education very often extends to family members, since eliciting the support of an ill individual’s family considers the “social” context of the person. It’s especially important to try to educate family members to support someone who is ill, since negative treatment of an illness by family can have an adverse effect.

Psychosocial interventions may be designed to help people quit destructive behaviors.
Psychosocial interventions may be designed to help people quit destructive behaviors.

In psychosocial interventions that are designed for groups, another effective tool is utilizing group therapy or other forms of peer support. This is common in programs for substance abuse addiction, but it also gets used in many other ways. People with any form of chronic illness may find support groups locally or on the Internet, and though they differ in quality, a sense of connectedness to others or of being able to share with other people may keep folks more invested in society.

For just about any disease treatment, a number of psychosocial interventions are available, and psychologists and others try to determine which ones are most effective. A similar determination occurs when people attempt to help societies or groups undergoing extreme stress and receiving humanitarian aid of any sort. Humanitarian groups must determine how best to address the psychological and social needs of these societies. With resources, medical and other aid workers may embark on plans to give brief therapy, educate communities, and foster group or community support. Over time, such efforts may have a positive effect.

Psychosocial interventions help patients to replace negative thinking patterns with positive ones.
Psychosocial interventions help patients to replace negative thinking patterns with positive ones.

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Discussion Comments


Bitter. Ha ha. Won't work on me. I can't cognitively "see" the social cues so I "read" the situation and circumstances wrong every time. Telling me to act like x in situation y, is not helpful at all because I can't even identify the situation. It's all just hopeless. God now there's a stupid code to post and I can't even "see" that correctly! Fourth go.


@Logicfest -- I'm not sure how much I like the term "societal norms." That definition is a moving target, after all. For example, homosexuality was once considered a psychological ailment, but that has largely changed in mainstream psychology. What else is considered abnormal now that might be seen as socially acceptable a decade or so from now?

The point, I think, is that getting people to conform to societal norms can be a good thing and a valid goal of psychologists. But what is considered normal is subject to change and therapists must keep up with those changes.


@Soulfox -- Good point, but there are times when a physical condition prevents someone from acting with societal norms. When that happens, medication may be the only option.

That is not saying that drugs are the first thing therapists should try. But it has been shown that certain types of depression, antisocial behavior and other conditions are brought on by physical problems that can't be "talked through" with a therapist.


Often, the approach of educating the individual about his or her place in society and the appropriate "normal" behavior (in other words, the exact goal of psychosocial intervention) is preferable to using drugs to alter an individual's behavior. When non-medical therapy is an option, that is the way to go.

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