Psychotherapy Dissertation Topics

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 1:

Factors affecting adult onset (45 years +) eating disorders.

Much research has been conducted with regard to childhood and adolescence onset eating disorders, whereas less is known about the triggers for adult onset disorders (affecting those aged 45 years and older). This paper considers both male and female subjects within the target age range and seeks to understand the degree to which mid-life issues affect eating disorders. The dissertation focuses particularly on the influence that the media has on sufferers with claims that lifestyle choices such as increased exercise and dieting will extend longevity, and whether such influence has a greater effect on males or females. Holistic profiles of patients will form part of the process in order to determine whether there are differences between those who have experience mid-life marital breakdown and those who remain in stable, long-term relationships.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Allaz, A-F., Bernstein, M., Rouget, P., Archinard, M. and Morabia, A. (1998). ‘Body weight preoccupation in middle-age and ageing women: A general population survey’. International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 23, pp. 287-294.
  • Forrester-Knauss, C. and Zemp Stutz, E. (2012). ‘Gender differences in disordered eating and weight dissatisfaction in Swiss adults: Which factors matter?’ BMC Public Health, vol. 12(1), pp. 809-818.
  • Roy, M. and Payette, H. (2012) ‘The body image construct among Western seniors: A systematic review of the literature’. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, vol. 55(3), pp. 505-521.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 2:

The effects of the global economic crisis on male depression: Breaking the chain of adversity.

The global financial crisis has had a prolonged effect on the economy, with retrenchments still occurring some years after its initial impact. This study follows ten male employees of the defunct electrical retailer, Comet, in the year after they lost their jobs as a result of the company’s collapse. The age range of the subjects is between 22 and 59; five of the subjects chose to have group psychotherapy as a part of this study, two chose to undergo no therapy whatsoever, and the final three agreed to individual psychotherapy. This paper charts their progress and seeks to determine whether psychotherapy is able to break the chain of adversity with respect to how these men view themselves.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • McKee-Ryan, F., Song, Z., Wanberg, C.R. and Kinicki, A.J. (2005). ‘Psychological and physical well-being during unemployment: A meta-analytic study’. Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 90(1), pp. 53-76.
  • Price, R.H., Choi, J.N. and Vinokur, A.D. (2002). ‘Links in the chain of adversity following job loss: How financial strain and loss of personal control lead to depression, impaired functioning, and poor health’. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, vol. 7(4), pp. 302-312.
  • Vinokur, A.D. and Schul, Y. (2002). ‘The web of coping resources and pathways to reemployment following a job loss’. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, vol. 7(1), pp. 68-83.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 3:

A defence of the boarding school: A survey of so-called ‘boarding school syndrome’.

Joy Schaverien has written a number of articles that dispute the validity of the British tradition of boarding school, describing it as a peculiar form of ‘child abuse and social control’ (2004, p. 683). This dissertation mounts a spirited defence of the boarding school, undertaking primary research with eighty former boarding school pupils, who commenced boarding at ages ranging from six to thirteen, and who are now aged between eighty and eighteen, as well as six boarding school housemasters and mistresses. The respondents will have varying experiences of boarding school and differing opinions on the lasting damage that the system caused; further, group psychotherapy sessions will explore their feelings to ascertain a greater understanding.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Schaverien, J. (2004). ‘Boarding school: The trauma of the ‘privileged’ child’. Journal of Analytical Psychology, vol. 49(5), pp. 683-705.
  • Schaverien, J. (2011). ‘Boarding school syndrome: Broken attachments, a hidden trauma’. British Journal of Psychotherapy, vol. 27(2), pp. 138-155.
  • van der Westhuizen, P.C., Oosthuizen, I. and Wolhuter, C.C. (2008). ‘The relationship between an effective organizational culture and student discipline in a boarding school’. Education and Urban Society, vol. 40(2), pp. 205-224.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 4:

The effect of different forms of music on mood-disordered adolescents, with particular emphasis on anxiety disorders.

Building on the findings of Gold, Voracek and Wigram, this dissertation undertakes primary research in trialling different forms of modern music with three groups of adolescents. A significant aspect of the project is that it does not utilise musical genres that have already been extensively used in such experiments, and musical forms to which the subjects themselves are unlikely to have been previously exposed. The music forms include: sufi rock, bit pop, acid trance, vocaloid, levenslied, Piedmont blues, and low bap. The focus of the investigation will be on behavioural and self-concept aspects of the music’s effects, to determine which, if either, can be modified to optimal benefit.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gold, C., Voracek, M. and Wigram, T. (2004). ‘Effects of music therapy for children and adolescents with psychopathology: A meta-analysis’. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 45, pp. 1054-1063.
  • Gold, C., Wigram, T. and Voracek, M. (2007). ‘Effectiveness of music therapy for children and adolescents with psychopathology: A quasi-experimental study’. Psychotherapy Research, vol. 17(3), pp. 289-296.
  • Gold, C., Wigram, T. and Voracek, M. (2007). ‘Predictors of change in music therapy with children and adolescents: The role of therapeutic techniques’. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, vol. 80, pp. 577-589.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 5:

Cultural constraints in expressive arts therapy: A case study undertaken in the Hatay Province refugee camp (Turkey) for refugees of the Syrian civil war.

As Dr Nien-Hwa Lai (2011, p. 306), there are cultural constraints that impede the progress possible through expressive arts therapy, primarily as a consequence of ‘indirect and hierarchical communication customs’. In this dissertation, expressive arts therapy programmes are conducted for five refugees current residing in the Hatay Province refugee camp. The refugees are often traumatised by displacement and violence, and art therapy assists in exploring their issues of oppression prior to the war breaking out, fleeing home, the destruction of their home, exile, life in the camps, and that which has occurred between. This paper provides an overview of the limitations wrought by a cultural divide between the subjects and the interviewer, and offers recommendations to minimise this in future encounters.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Fitzpatrick, F. (2002). ‘A search for home: The role of art therapy in understanding the experiences of Bosnian refugees in Western Australia’. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, vol. 19(4), pp. 151-158.
  • Kalmanowitz, D. (2005). Art therapy and political violence. London: Routledge.
  • Rousseau, C. and Heusch, N. (2000). ‘The trip: A creative expression project for refugee and immigrant children’. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, vol. 17(1), pp. 31-40.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 6:

‘Regimes of truth’: Their place in psychotherapy with adults in leadership positions.

Foucault (1977) saw truth as a subjective concept, and found it to be a multi-faceted notion within the varied configurations of power. Those who are in power – whether in business, or political positions – are frequently aware of the subjectivity of truth, and the need to understand how they use it in their own leadership positions. This dissertation reflects on the role of psychotherapy in assisting those in power to become more self-aware and to exercise power in a less autocratic manner. Additionally, it explores how leaders manage their personal relationships and whether the exercise of power is all-encompassing.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Foucault, M. (1977). ‘Truth and power’. In, Foucault, M. (Gordon, C. ed.), Power/knowledge: Selected interviews & other writings 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon Books, pp. 109-133.
  • Hills, H.I., Carlstrom, A. and Evanow, M. (2001). ‘Consulting with men in business and industry’. In, Brooks, G.R. and Good, G.E. (eds). The new handbook of psychotherapy and counseling with men: A comprehensive guide to settings, problems, and treatment approaches, Vols 1 & 2. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 126-145.
  • Sandler, C. (2010). ‘Working with business leaders and their teams’. British Journal of Psychotherapy, vol. 26, 186-191.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 7:

An analysis of the effect of the media on obesity: Better physical health, or worse mental health?

The media has joined in with the calls of many in the medical profession, as well as politicians and social commentators, that the rates of obesity must fall in order to reduce the cost of obesity-related conditions, such as stroke and heart attack, to the NHS. This paper considers whether the frequency and tone of such advice has created an environment whereby the obese will feel so hectored that their mental health deteriorated substantially, thereby simply moving costs from one sector of the public health budget, to another. The focus within the thesis is not on the exacerbation of eating disorders but rather on the mental health of those who remain obese, by choice, disinclination otherwise, or other conditions.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • De Zwaan, M., Petersen, I., Kaerber, M., Burgmer, R., Nolting, B., Legenbauer, T., Benecke, A. and Herpertz, S. (2009). ‘Obesity and quality of life: A controlled study of normal-weight and obese individuals’. Psychosomatics, vol. 50(5), pp. 474-482.
  • Karasu, S.R. (2012). ‘Of mind and matter: Psychological dimensions in obesity’. American Journal of Psychotherapy, vol. 66(2), pp. 111-128.
  • Lin, L. and Reid, K. (2009). ‘The relationship between media exposure and antifat attitudes: The role of dysfunctional appearance beliefs’. Body Image, vol. 6(1), pp. 52-55.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 8:

Threat anticipation triggers in schizophrenia: A meta-analysis.

The ability to predict psychotic episodes in schizophrenia would considerably aid the management of the condition. This dissertation undertakes a meta-analysis of the published literature on threat anticipation triggers, with a particular focus on persecutory delusions. It explores the models of such delusions currently in use and evaluates their overall effectiveness. This is a dissertation that would suit the student more inclined to wide-ranging secondary research and who may not, for example, have access to a clinical setting in which to conduct primary research.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bentall, R.P. (1994). ‘Cognitive biases and abnormal beliefs: Towards a model of persecutory delusions’. In, David, A.S. and Cutting, J. (eds), The neuropsychology of schizophrenia. London: Erlbaum, pp. 337-360.
  • Harrington, L., Langdon, R., Siegert, R.J. and McClure, J. (2005). ‘Schizophrenia, theory of mind, and persecutory delusions’. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, vol. 10, pp. 87-104.
  • Salvatore, G., Lysaker, P.H., Popolo, R., Procacci, M., Carcione, A. and Dimaggio, G. (2012). ‘Vulnerable self, poor understanding of others’ minds, threat anticipation and cognitive biases as triggers for delusional experience in schizophrenia: A theoretical model’. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, vol. 19, pp. 247-259.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 9:

An examination of empathetic and compassionate responses in barristers.

The work of a barrister can be very stressful, and an awareness that their performance can affect the lives not only of those whom they defend or prosecute, but their families and the wider community, is an additional stressor. This dissertation considers the extent to which such stress, as well as the day-to-day routine of being confronted with varying degrees of truth, impacts the empathy of barristers. Primary research is conducted amongst ten barristers, two of which having just attained tenancy, and each is also probed for their perception that psychotherapy would improve their work-life balance as well as their professional efficacy.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Brenner, M. (2010). ‘Redefining supervision from ‘the gaze’ to ‘supportive practice”. ADR Bulletin, 11(5), Article 4.
  • Cheng, K.H.C. (2009). ‘Further linguistic markers of personality: The way we say things matters’. International Journal of Psychological Studies, vol. 3(1).
  • Haque, O.S. and Waytz, A. (2012). ‘Dehumanization in medicine: Causes, solutions, and functions’. Perspectives on Psychological Science, vol. 7(2), pp. 176-186.

Example psychotherapy dissertation topic 10:

Treatment options featuring school and family involvement for pre-adolescent children with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The use of cognitive behaviour therapy to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder has been shown to be successful in the pre-adolescent age group (Martin and Thienemann, 2005). At this age, children spend a substantial amount of their awake hours at school, and thus an integrated approach with the school should be helpful. This paper considers how schools can become more involved in supportive treatment for OCD sufferers, from an awareness of the side effects of medication, to mindfulness of bullying from other children, and participation in family, individual and group therapy processes. It examines the interaction of several families and the schools which their children attend.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Geller, D.A., Biederman, J., Stewart, S.E., Mullin, B., Martin, A., Spencer, T. and Faraone, S.V. (2003). ‘Which SSRI? A meta-analysis of pharmacotherapy trials in pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder’. American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 160, pp. 1919-1928.
  • March, J.S. (1995). ‘Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for children and adolescents with OCD: A review and recommendations for treatment’. Journal of the American Academy Child Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 34, pp. 7-18.
  • Martin, J.L. and Thienemann, M. (2005). ‘Group cognitive-behavior therapy with family involvement for middle-school-age children with obsessive-compulsive disorder: A pilot study’. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, vol. 36(1), pp. 113-127.

Leave a Reply