British Psychological Society Introduces a New Way to Understand Mental Health

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From Mad in America: The British Psychological Society (BPS) has introduced a new model to understand and help people when they are emotionally troubled or psychologically distressed. This fresh approach challenges the traditional method used by doctors.

This new model is known as the “Power Threat Meaning Framework” (PTM). It was created by a group of prominent psychologists working with individuals who have experienced these mental health difficulties. They want to study how the way people are abused by power, and the way they see threats in their life, affects how they respond to difficult situations.

In contrast to labeling someone with a mental illness (called the biomedical model which uses the DSM for diagnosis), this fresh system focuses on understanding people’s mental difficulties by focusing on their strengths and their ability to overcome challenges. The authors write that many behaviors often seen as problems or disorders could actually be typical human reactions to difficult situations.

Esteemed psychologists like Lucy Johnstone and Peter Kinderman played key roles in creating this revolutionary idea. They worked with individuals such as Jacqui Dillon and Eleanor Longden to ensure it could be used practically and was not only a theory. 

The PTM model is different from the mainstream biomedical model of mental health because the biomedical model only focuses on internal factors to understand people’s psychological suffering (such as chemical imbalances in the brain). This model pays a lot of attention to the effect of external factors such as society and culture on psychological pain and suffering.

This new system values people’s own account of their emotions. 

First the PTM system looks at power (P) in people’s lives. Power can affect people in various ways, from personal to societal. For example, an abusive parent has power over a child, and a corrupt legal system has power over the poor. Similarly, a toxic work environment has power over the employee. This new approach focuses on how people respond to power dynamics and how these dynamics impact their experiences.

The next important thing is the meaning (M) that people attach to their emotional experiences. People use their cultural and personal lives to make sense of their feelings (give them meaning), which helps them in coping with difficult situations. For example, in one culture a person might consider getting cancer a result of just bad times which are temporary, which in turns help him cope.

Lastly, based on the power (P) dynamic in their life and the way they understand or make sense (M) of these situations, people have reactions known as threat responses (T). For the biomedical model these responses are a disorder (hearing voices, feeling anxious, feeling depressed), but for PTM, these reactions make sense in the life of the person and should be understood with empathy.

Furthermore, the PTM approach focuses on individuals’ strengths and their positive factors which help them deal with difficult life situations. In essence, the PTM framework poses some fundamental questions:

  • What events have shaped your experiences? (How has power played a role in your life?)
  • How did these events affect you emotionally? (What threats did you see?)
  • How did you interpret these events? (What importance did they hold for you?)
  • How did you respond to overcome challenges? (How did you react?)
  • What personal strengths did you draw upon? (What inner resources helped you?)
  • Ultimately, what is your unique narrative? (What is your overall story?)

This article originally appeared in Mad in America and can be read here.

This is an AI generated version shortened and edited for a South Asian audience.


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