Glossary of Terms


Stress: Stress is essentially the feeling of being overwhelmed. Symptoms include difficulty in sleeping, concentration problems, and generalized tension. Stress can result from either internal or external factors, or a combination of both.

Anxiety: Anxiety is a condition of agitation and distress. The experience of anxiety is fear, but you may not be able to specify what you are fearful about. Anxiety can be experienced in varying degrees of intensity. In its most extreme form, it can cause a person to feel like they are going out of control, or crazy. In a physiological level, anxiety symptoms include rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, queasiness, dry mouth, or sweating.

Panic: Panic is bursts of overwhelming anxiety appearing out of the blue, generally for a brief period (a few minutes to a few hours). Symptoms of panic include rapid heart beat, nausea, or feeling of "dying". Sometimes a person confuses panic disorder with a heart attack because the symptoms can be similar.

Depression: Depression is a state of sadness, hopelessness, lethargy, worthlessness, irritability, and loss of vitality. A person who feels depressed also may experience biological changes, such as a lack of appetite, loss of libido, and sleep disruption. To be considered a disorder depression must last over two weeks.

Mood Disorder: The identifying characteristic of a mood disorder is the cycling or alternating of depressive and hyperstimulated or "manic" states. Bipolar disorder is probably the best known mood disorder. Unlike "unipolar" depression in which mood is markedly low, in bipolar disorder a person's mood alternates between depression and elevation or mania. This disorder is biologically based, although mood disorders may also result from substance abuse or illness.

Obsessive:Compulsive Disorder (OCD)- Obsessions are recurring thoughts, ideas or impulses that intrude into a person's mind. Compulsions are the behaviors or rituals that are used to ward off the anxiety brought about by the obsession. Obsessive:compulsive individuals may engage in many hours of checking, cleaning, and ordering. These behaviors are out of a person's control and can severely disrupt everyday life.

Post:Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)- Post-traumatic stress disorder is the disabling psychological experience that follows a traumatic event. Symptoms include recurring thoughts and images relating to the event, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, depressive feelings and loss of pleasure. PTSD may continue for years after the traumatic event if left untreated.

Substance Abuse: Substance abuse is the use of sutbstances leading to significant psychological impairment. If abuse is present, then the substance becomes increasingly more focal than ordinary social, occupational, or recreational activities. A person who is clinically defined as a substance abuser will usually continue to use intoxicants despite their harmful physical and psychological effects.

Eating Disorders: Eating disorders may take several forms. Anorexia Nervosa is an intense fear of gaining weight; it is maintained by self:starvation. Bulimia Nervosa is a disorder which is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating excessive amounts of food in a short period (binging), feeling out of control when eating, and followed by purging. Purging is self:induced vomiting, the misuse of diuretics, laxatives or enemas. Anorexia and Bulimia can occure in tandem.

Obtaining Help

Intake: Intake procedures may be conducted somewhat differently at alternative mental health sites. All seek to set up an initial appointment and set the process of finding the right therapist in motion. The intake interview is actually the first therapy session. Therapist and client explore current problems, client symptoms, expectations for therapy and therapist selection.

Diagnosis: A descriptive diagnosis is a summary of a person's presenting problems. A clinical diagnosis involves placing information about the person's symptoms and feelings into a recognizable category. Establishing a good diagnosis is one of the critical aspects of therapy since it guides the therapist in choosing the best treatment.

Treatment plan: A treatment plan is very important because it acts as a map for what the client and therapist will do together. A treatment plan may be revised during the course of therapy. It is always important for a person to know why a particular treatment is recommended.

Confidentiality: Confidentiality means maintaining the absolute privacy of the therapy situation. By law, the only qualification to breaking confidentiality is the clear suicidality of a person, or their naming of an individual who they plan to harm.

Types of Help

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is a unique dialogue between a therapist and a client which promotes self:exploration. Psychotherapy uses talking, problem solving, and insight to help a person understand their feelings or fears that may be blocking their ability to achieve goals and feeling a sense of emotional well:being. There are many different philosophies of psychotherapy. The major treatments include:

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: This form of therapy is the contemporary version of what Freud initially referred to as "the talking therapy." It is based on the principle that psychological development occurs as a result of an interaction between temperment and environmental experiences. During the course of gowing up, a person may develop maladaptive ways of meeting their needs, or managing their feelings. Through the exploration and expression of feelings, painful affect, fantasy, and dreams, psychological integration and change can occur and behaviors modified. The emphasis in psychodynamic psychotherapy is upon understanding the meaning of one's feelings in a non:judgmental situation.

Psychoanalytic Therapy: Psychoanalytic therapy is the process of uncovering the unconscious through free association of thoughts and analysis of dreams. The process was created and popularized by Sigmund Freud. This process is not commonly used today, but is available for people who feel that exploring deep:rooted experiences best meets their needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Psychological change occurs through cognitive behavioral therapy by teaching a person to think about feelings or actions differently (the "cognitive" part), and by developing structured behavioral plans which set incremental goals for targeted behavioral change (for example, specific behaviors to help allocate social anxiety).

Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy is primarily used to relieve symptoms, phobias, or gain control over dysfunctional behaviors. Unlike psychodynamic psychotherapy, behavioral therapy focuses on actions, not meaning.

Medication: Today, the group of medications known as psychotropic (affecting the mind) are often viewed skeptically or with fear because their effects are misunderstood, or they have been administered without care. Used under the supervision of a skilled psychiatrist, medication can be very significant adjunct to psychotherapy. Research on the best treatment outcomes uniformly indicate the medication is best used with psychotherapy.

Supportive Therapy: Supportive therapy uses interventions like active listening, problem solving, or planning to help an individual through a life crisis (loss), birth, period of transition (move), or de:stablization (job loss). Rather than delving into motive and meanings, supportive therapy focuses upon helping a person strengthen existing coping mechanisms.

Types of Helpers

Psychiatrist: a medical doctor or physician who has completed medical school and is allowed to prescribe medication. Psychiatrists are experts in the use of medications to treat mental disorders and also experts in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.

Clinical Psychologist: A psychologist is an individual who has completed a doctoral level degree in psychology:- the study of how individuals behave, think, feel, know, etc. Psychologists do not have medical training and cannot prescribe medications; however, they have extensive training in treating psychological disorders. The psychologists that specialize in psychotherapy are called clinical psychologists.

Social Worker: A social worker is a professional who has completed a two year Master's degree. Many social workers who practice in the New York metropolitan area have also completed three to five years of post:graduate psychotherapy training. It is important to understand that clinical training for social workers or psychologists beyond a Master's level degree significantly raises the skill and professionalism of the therapist. You should feel free to inquire about this.

Last updated: July 02, 2007.


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.