Glossary of Terms | Psychiatry | Dartmouth-Hitchcock
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Glossary of Terms

Anxiety disorders are associated with unreasonable and disturbing sensations of fear and tension for no apparent identifiable cause. There are several types of anxiety disorders: Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia (sometimes coexisting with Panic Disorder), Phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Learn more about anxiety and anxiety disorders from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise® Health Encyclopedia website.

Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy focuses on changing unwanted behaviors through rewards, reinforcements, and desensitization. Behavioral therapy helps people cope with chronic illnesses or recurring medical problems. It views illness with an all-encompassing perspective. The philosophy is simple—physical, behavioral and psychological elements all contribute to physical wellness as well as illness. Behavioral therapy often involves the cooperation of others, especially family and close friends, to reinforce a desired behavior.

(Medication) Biomedical Treatment
Medication alone, or in combination with psychotherapy, has proven to be an effective treatment for a number of emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. The kind of medication a psychiatrist prescribes varies with the disorder and the individual being treated. For example, some people who suffer from anxiety, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders, and schizophrenia find their symptoms improve dramatically through careful monitoring of appropriate medication.

Chemical Dependency Counselors
A certified addiction counselor who has specific training in drug and/or alcohol dependency. Chemical dependency counselors conduct group education and therapy sessions and often individually counsel patients with a chemical dependency to help them understand and recover from their addiction.

Cognitive Therapy
This method aims to identify and correct distorted thinking patterns that can lead to feelings and behaviors that may be troublesome, self-defeating, or even self-destructive. The goal is to replace such thinking with a more balanced view that, in turn, leads to more fulfilling and productive behavior.

Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy
A combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies, this approach helps people change negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors so they can manage symptoms and enjoy more productive, less stressful lives.

Couples Counseling and Family Therapy
These two similar approaches to therapy involve discussions and problem-solving sessions facilitated by a therapist—sometimes with the couple or entire family group, sometimes with individuals. Such therapy can help couples and family members improve their understanding of, and the way they respond to, one another. This type of therapy can resolve patterns of behavior that might lead to more severe mental illness. Family therapy may be very useful with children and adolescents who are experiencing problems. Family therapy can help educate individuals about the nature of a particular disorder and teach them skills to cope better with the effects of having a family member with a mental illness—such as how to deal with feelings of anger or guilt. In addition, family therapy can help members identify and reduce factors that may trigger or worsen the disorder.

Learn about depression, its causes and symptoms, and how it is treated from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Dual Diagnosis
A person who has both an alcohol or drug problem and a psychiatric problem is said to have a dual diagnosis. In order to recover fully, the person needs treatment for both problems. Learn more about dual diagnosis from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is much more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day. It's chronic and exaggerated worry and tension. Having this disorder means always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint. Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety. Learn more about generalized anxiety disorder from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Group Therapy
This form of therapy involves groups of usually 4 to 12 people who have similar problems and who meet regularly with a therapist. The therapist uses the emotional interactions of the group's members to help them get relief from distress and possibly modify their behavior.

Individual Psychotherapy
Through one-on-one conversations, this approach focuses on the patient's current life and relationships within the family, social, and work environments. The goal is to identify and resolve problems with insight, as well as build on strengths.

This is the process of registering for treatment services. Usually, it starts by calling our Central Access service, where a specialist will gather basic information, such as name/address of the patient and his or her insurance information. As part of the intake process, patients provide a basic medical history and sign releases of information.

Managed Care
Managed care companies provide health benefits or plans in a cost-conscious groups fashion. To control health care costs, manage care companies discourage unnecessary hospitalization, promote least costly alternatives, and discourage overuse of services. Though there are many different kinds of managed care, two models are the most popular:

  • A Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) is a prepaid health plan. For a fixed fee per year, an HMO provides enrollees a range of medical services, both inpatient and outpatient. Doctors, on salary or contract, may work in a central facility or in a number of different places. Generally, you must use the providers who work for the HMO.
  • A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) is a group of independent providers in private offices offering services at a discount to the managed care company. The plan distributes a list of participating doctors. In both PPO and HMO plans with a "point-of-service" option, you may pay more if you use a doctor outside this group.

Mental Health Counselors
A clinical mental health counselor provides professional counseling services to help individuals, couples, and families. Mental health counselors promote healthy, satisfying lifestyles. Clinical mental health counselors have earned at least a master's degree, had supervised experience, and passed a national examination to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. (NBCC).

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by anxious thoughts or rituals you feel you can't control. If you have OCD you may be plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts or images, or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals. Rituals such as handwashing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed in hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. OCD is often a chronic, relapsing illness. Learn more about obsessive-compulsive disorder from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. They can't predict when an attack will occur, and many develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when and where the next one will strike. In between times there is a persistent, lingering worry that another attack could come any minute. Learn about panic attacks and panic disorder from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Phobias occur in several forms. A specific phobia is a fear of a particular object or situation. Social phobia is a fear of being painfully embarrassed in a social setting. And agoraphobia, which often accompanies panic disorder, is a fear of being in any situation that might provoke a panic attack, or from which escape might be difficult if one occurred. Most people experience these fears with mild to moderate intensity, and the fear passes. For people with social phobia, however, the fear is extremely intrusive and can disrupt normal life, interfering with work or social relationships in varying degrees of severity. Learn more about phobias from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

Play Therapy
Geared toward young children, this technique uses a variety of activities—such as painting, puppets, and dioramas—to establish communication with the therapist and resolve problems. Play allows the child to express emotions and problems that would be too difficult to discuss with another person.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that follows exposure to an extremely stressful event. Events that may lead to PTSD typically are life threatening and produce a sense of intense fear, helplessness or horror. A person who witnesses, experiences, or is threatened with serious injury or death may be vulnerable to developing symptoms of PTSD. Learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder from our Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthwise Health Encyclopedia website.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental disorders, is licensed to practice medicine, and has completed a year of internship and three years of specialty training. A board-certified psychiatrist has, in addition, practiced for at least two years and passed the written and oral examinations of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists can evaluate and diagnose all types of mental disorders, carry out biomedical treatments and psychotherapy, and work with psychological problems associated with medical disorders. Of the mental health professionals, only psychiatrists can prescribe medications. Child psychiatrists specialize in working with children; geriatric psychiatrists concentrate on helping the aged.

Psychiatric Nurses
Psychiatric nursing is a specialized area of professional nursing practice that is concerned with prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of mental-health-related problems. These nurses are registered professional nurses who have advanced academic degrees at the master's degree level or above. They conduct individual, family and group therapy and also work in mental health consultation, education and administration.

Psychologists who conduct psychotherapy and work with individuals, groups, or families to resolve problems generally are called clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, or school psychologists. They work in many settings - for example, mental health centers, hospitals and clinics, schools, employee assistance programs, and private practice. In most states, a licensed clinical psychologist has completed a doctoral degree from a university program with specialized training and experience requirements and has successfully completed a professional licensure examination.

The field of psychology also includes those who specialize in such areas as testing, community organization, industrial relations, and laboratory research.

Social Workers
Psychiatric (or clinical) social workers have master's or doctor's degrees in social work, have completed a field supervision program, and are licensed/certified. In addition to individual, family, and group counseling and psychotherapy, they are trained in client-centered advocacy. This includes information, referral, direct intervention with governmental and civic agencies, and expansion of community resources.

These are the positive characteristics of an individual or family. Everyone, no matter how severe their problems are, has things they do well, people they like, and activities they enjoy.

System of Care
This a coordinated network of agencies and providers that make a full range of mental health and other necessary services available as needed by individuals with mental health problems and their families.

Treatment Plan
This is a written document that lists and describes all the testing and treatment services a patient will receive. Treatment plans include information about a patient's strengths, problems, history, and needs. A treatment plan identifies treatment is designed to accomplish as well as how and when progress will be assessed. The treatment plan also includes information on aftercare or continued care, which means what services or supports are recommended at the conclusion of treatment.

Treatment Planning Team
This is the group of professionals who work together as a team to design and implement a treatment plan. Often times, a treatment planning team includes individuals from different professional disciples, who each bring a unique orientation or specialty to the process. Examples of the types of individuals that might be involved in a treatment planning team include: psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, or substance abuse counselor. All those individuals participating in treatment planning are involved in the case in some way. Sometimes specialists outside the Department of Psychiatry get involved with treatment planning, such as a medical or education specialists.