Have you ever heard of parasomnias?

Parasomnias are undesirable experiences that occur during the transition from wakefulness to sleep, during sleep, or upon awakening from sleep. A parasomnia can result from an unstable state of consciousness in which certain areas of the brain are asleep and others are awake. There are two types of parasomnias: those that occur during the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) phases of sleep and those that occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. (Cai & Price, 2021). In this article, the focus is specifically directed toward NREM parasomnias in children.

Sleepwalking is a common NREM parasomnia in childhood that usually disappears in adolescence but may persist or reappear again in adulthood (Petit et al., 2015). In the third edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, sleepwalking is defined as a complex behavior that is usually triggered during partial arousal from slow-wave sleep (American Academy of Sleep Medicine [AASM], 2014). During sleepwalking, the individual barely responds to questions, may perform inappropriate complex activities such as climbing out of a window, and shows amnesia and confusion after waking up (AASM, 2014; Cai & Price, 2021). Sleep terror is an early childhood NREM parasomnia and consists also of partial arousal from slow-wave sleep, often accompanied by a cry or a continuous scream, accompanied by manifestations of intense fear in the behavioral and autonomic nervous system (AASM, 2014). For most children, these sleep disturbances are relatively harmless but, in some cases, there is a high risk of injury, not to mention the disruption of the parent’s sleep (Petit et al., 2015).

These two parasomnias have many features in common, including a relative insensitivity to external stimuli during sleep and mental confusion after waking up (AASM, 2014). Both types of episodes occur mainly during slow-wave sleep and their onset is prompted by the same factors, including fever or high temperature (Larsen, Dooley, & Gordon, 2004), medication (Pressman, 2007), sleep deprivation (Zadra, Pilon, & Montplaisir, 2008), noise (Pilon, Montplaisir, & Zadra, 2008) and sleep-related respiratory events (Guilleminault, Palombini, Pelayo, & Chervin, 2003). Treatment is also the same for both disorders, with scheduled waking recommended for children (Petit et al., 2015). 

There is an assumption that these parasomnias represent different phenotypic expressions of the same underlying disorder rather than different pathologies (Petit et al., 2015). A convincing argument for this view is the common occurrence of these parasomnias within families. In a small sample it was shown that 96% of people with sleep terrors and about 80% of sleepwalkers have at least one family member affected by sleep terrors, sleepwalking or both (Kales et al., 1980).

Bibliography :
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2014). International classification of sleep disorders (3rd ed.). Darien, IL: American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 
  • Cai, A., & Price, R. S. (2021). 80 – Parasomnias. In B. L. Cucchiara & R. S. Price (Eds.), Decision-Making in Adult Neurology (pp. 164-165). Elsevier.
  • Guilleminault, C., Palombini, L., Pelayo, R., & Chervin, R. D. (2003). Sleepwalking and sleep terrors in prepubertal children: what triggers them? Pediatrics, 111(1), e17-25. doi:10.1542/peds.111.1.e17
  • Kales, A., Soldatos, C. R., Bixler, E. O., Ladda, R. L., Charney, D. S., Weber, G., & Schweitzer, P. K. (1980). Hereditary factors in sleepwalking and night terrors. The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science, 137, 111–118. doi:10.1192/bjp.137.2.111
  • Larsen, C. H., Dooley, J., & Gordon, K. (2004). Fever-associated confusional arousal. European Journal of Pediatrics, 163(11), 696–697. doi:10.1007/s00431-004-1531-9
  • Petit, D., Pennestri, M.-H., Paquet, J., Desautels, A., Zadra, A., Vitaro, F., … Montplaisir, J. (2015). Childhood Sleepwalking and Sleep Terrors: A Longitudinal Study of Prevalence and Familial Aggregation. JAMA Pediatrics, 169(7), 653–658. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.127
  • Pilon, M., Montplaisir, J., & Zadra, A. (2008). Precipitating factors of somnambulism: impact of sleep deprivation and forced arousals. Neurology, 70(24), 2284–2290. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000304082.49839.86
  • Pressman, M. R. (2007). Factors that predispose, prime and precipitate NREM parasomnias in adults: clinical and forensic implications. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 11(1), 5–30; discussion 31-33. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2006.06.003
  • Zadra, A., Pilon, M., & Montplaisir, J. (2008). Polysomnographic diagnosis of sleepwalking: effects of sleep deprivation. Annals of Neurology, 63(4), 513–519. doi:10.1002/ana.21339

Author : Alexander Ariu


Mindfulness-based therapy for chronic pain

Mindfulness-based therapy for chronic pain

Chronic pain is a common, disabling complaint affecting approximately 20-30% of the adult population in Western countries and is often associated with high rates of comorbid depressive symptoms. While current therapeutic approaches, including analgesics and opioids, can provide significant improvements, the most effective medications only reduce pain by 30-40% in less than 50% of the patients. In addition, surgical techniques such as implantation of artificial spinal discs offer limited pain reduction in only a subset of patients. This has led to the proposal of various psychological treatments for chronic pain (Chiesa & Serretti, 2011).

Over the last three decades, mindfulness-based interventions have become increasingly important in the treatment of chronic pain (Reiner, Tibi, & Lipsitz, 2013). Mindfulness focuses on detached observation of a constantly changing field of objects, which means observing perceptions, emotions and cognitions, without judgement and attempts to change or control them (Kabat-Zinn, Lipworth, & Burney, 1985). A substantial body of research supports the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain patients. However, much of this research primarily addresses global distress, functional capacity and quality of life (Reiner et al., 2013).

Although mindfulness-based interventions are far from being uniform, they are characterized by three core features. The first is to observe the reality of the present moment by focusing attention on objective features of the momentary situation or experience. The second is to focus attention on a single aspect of consciousness and accept it as it is, without judgement, action or preoccupation with its implications. The third is to remain open to whatever is in focus at the moment, without holding on to any particular point of view or outcome. These three characteristics have also been described in terms of a two-component model, where one component involves attention to the present moment and the second component involves an attitude of acceptance and openness (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985).

There are currently several mindfulness-based interventions that have been shown to be beneficial for pain disorders. The most researched among them are Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; Reiner et al., 2013). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was originally developed to improve the self-management of chronic pain patients (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985). MBSR is based on the rationale that mindfulness practice leads to a spontaneous decoupling of the sensory component of pain from the emotional and cognitive components, thus reducing the level of distress caused by pain. In MBSR, individuals learn the principles of mindfulness through various techniques, for example, practicing yoga and various meditations such as body scan meditation or breathing meditation (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985). A meta-analysis that examined the effects of MBSR in adults with chronic conditions (including chronic pain) concludes that there is evidence of the effectiveness of MBSR in reducing stress and impairment in this population (Bohlmeijer, Prenger, Taal, & Cuijpers, 2010). ACT is also offered for chronic pain as well as a variety for other psychological problems (Reiner et al., 2013). The acceptance method combines mindfulness practice with work on personal values, behaviour commitment and behaviour change strategies to help patients live more fulfilling lives (McCracken, Carson, Eccleston, & Keefe, 2004).

Bibliography :
  • Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., & Cuijpers, P. (2010). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68(6), 539–544. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.10.005
  • Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2011). Mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain: a systematic review of the evidence. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 17(1), 83–93. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0546
  • Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., & Burney, R. (1985). The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8(2), 163–190. doi: 10.1007/BF00845519
  • McCracken, L. M., Carson, J. W., Eccleston, C., & Keefe, F. J. (2004). Acceptance and change in the context of chronic pain. Pain, 109(1–2), 4–7. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2004.02.006Reiner, K., Tibi, L., & Lipsitz, J. D. (2013). Do mindfulness-based interventions reduce pain intensity? A critical review of the literature. Pain Medicine (Malden, Mass.), 14(2), 230–242. doi: 10.1111/pme.12006
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Author : Alexander Ariu


What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette’s syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder that manifests itself in so-called tics. Tics are spontaneous movements, sounds, or utterances of words that occur without the intention of the affected person. The movements often occur repeatedly in the same way but are not rhythmic and can occur individually or in series. Tourette’s usually begins in childhood, more rarely in adolescence. Younger children in particular often go through a phase with tics that disappear on their own after a few months.  If complex vocal and multiple motor tics occur in combination, one speaks of Tourette’s syndrome (APA, 2013).

The causes of Tourette’s syndrome have only been rudimentarily researched to date. It is assumed that it is largely genetically predisposed (Pauls, 2003). The development of Tourette syndrome is attributed to a disorder in the neurotransmitter metabolism of the brain. In particular, the neurotransmitter dopamine is the focus of research. Studies have shown that the number of dopamine receptors in the brains of patients with Tourette syndrome is increased (TGD, 2021). However, a disturbed serotonin, norepinephrine, glutamine, and opioid metabolism and the interactions between these substances also seem to play a role (TGD, 2021). The disorders manifest themselves primarily in the so-called basal ganglia. They regulate which impulses a person translates into actions and which do not. In order to develop this, additional triggers in the environment must be present. These include, for example, negative factors during pregnancy and birth, such as smoking and psychosocial stress during pregnancy, prematurity, and oxygen deprivation at birth (TGD, 2021).

The psychological suffering of those affected is high in some cases due to the prominent, uncontrollable symptoms – especially in Tourette’s syndrome. The complexity of some tic disorders sometimes causes great astonishment and also anger or rejection among those around them (family members, friends, teachers; Hoekstra, Steenhuis, Kallenberg, & Minderaa, 2004; Khalifa & Von Knorring, 2006). Many non-affected persons cannot imagine that these actions and vocalizations are involuntary and disease-related. Some people feel also provoked by the tics; especially if it involves coprolalia/copropraxia. Coprolalia is a complex vocal tic in which affected individuals express obscenities in single words or sometimes entire sentences. Copropraxia is the same but for motor tics in which, for example, the middle finger is often shown. Therefore, justified fear due to the tics and also feelings of shame are very common in children and adolescents with chronic tic disorders or Tourette syndrome (Freeman et al., 2009; Kobierska, Sitek, Gocyła, & Janik, 2014). On the other hand, many affected individuals are well integrated socially, as long as the symptomatology is not too pronounced (Freeman et al., 2009).

Often, the affected children do not even notice their tics at first. It is usually the parents or educators who become aware of these behavioral characteristics. They often feel disturbed, worry, and consider whether parenting mistakes were behind it, even if the children’s development is going well (Khalifa & Von Knorring, 2006). For most of those affected, the symptoms improve after puberty or even disappear completely. Others have tics throughout their lives. Boys are affected four times as often as girls (Leckman et al., 1998). It is estimated that about one percent of people develop Tourette syndrome (Robertson, 2008).

Bibliography :
  • Freeman, R. D., Zinner, S. H., Müller‐Vahl, K. R., Fast, D. K., Burd, L. J., Kano, Y., … Stern, J. S. (2009). Coprophenomena in Tourette syndrome. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 51(3), 218–227. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2008.03135.x
  • Hoekstra, P. J., Steenhuis, M. P., Kallenberg, C. G., & Minderaa, R. B. (2004). Association of small life events with self reports of tic severity in pediatric and adult tic disorder patients: a prospective longitudinal study. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 65(3), 426.
  • Khalifa, N., & Von Knorring, A. L. (2006). Psychopathology in a Swedish population of school children with tic disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(11), 1346-1353.
  • Kobierska, M., Sitek, M., Gocyła, K., & Janik, P. (2014). Coprolalia and copropraxia in patients with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. Neurologia I Neurochirurgia Polska, 48(1), 1–7. doi: 10.1016/j.pjnns.2013.03.001
  • Leckman, J. F., Zhang, H., Vitale, A., Lahnin, F., Lynch, K., Bondi, C., … Peterson, B. S. (1998). Course of tic severity in Tourette syndrome: the first two decades. Pediatrics, 102(1 Pt 1), 14–19. doi: 10.1542/peds.102.1.14
  • Pauls, D. L. (2003). An update on the genetics of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 55(1), 7–12. doi: 10.1016/S0022-3999(02)00586-X
  • Robertson, M. M. (2008). The prevalence and epidemiology of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome: Part 1: The epidemiological and prevalence studies. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 65(5), 461–472. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.03.006
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  • MondoMedia. (2011, March 10). Dick Figures – Role Playas (Ep #9) [Video]. YouTube.

Author : Alexander Ariu


What does Christmas have to do with psychology ?

Most people are probably already in the preparations, some are taking their time just before closing time on the 24th, but everyone is aware of it: Christmas! Mulled wine, fairy lights, advent candles, the same films every year, and maybe let’s hope for snow. Just those wonderful, heart-warming holidays that you can (or have to) spend comfortably with your family. But what is actually behind it? What really happens to us at Christmas?

For a little introduction to the psychology of Christmas, here are some psychological proofs about Christmas.

The annual recurring December question is: What should I get as a gift? Psychology’s answer is not money! Giving and receiving gifts is very important for our relationships, and a gift can have a lot of influence. The perfect gift should be respectful and loving, and at the same time, it should adequately reflect the intimacy and closeness of the relationship between the two people. All of this is not represented by money. So, give it some thought – What do you want for your gift to say to the person you are giving it to (Burgoyne & Routh, 1990)?

Now we come to the wrapping of the gifts. In fact, how the gift is wrapped has an effect on our attitude towards the gift. This effect comes from the fact that the wrapping induces a positive mood, which is then transferred to the contents of the wrapping (Howard, 1992). So put a lot of effort into the wrapping.

Decorating your house for Christmas makes a nice impression. According to a US study, people whose houses are decorated are considered friendlier than owners of undecorated houses. Moreover, these people were also assumed to be more sociable, even though this was not the case (Werner, Peterson-Lewis, & Brown, 1989). So, a tip to all homeowners: If things are not going well in the neighborhood, just decorate a little and things will work out.

Imagine the smell of biscuits and Christmas music. What does that do with us? At least in shops, it makes us think everything is better. And what’s most important: the combination of both! Nice music but a bad smell does not convince us much. We want the total package of nice things (Spangenberg, Grohmann, & Sprott, 2005).

For those of you who like to put on a little weight over Christmas, don’t panic. On average, people only gain half a kilo (Andersson & Rössner, 1992). Those who are now thinking, “But if I gain half a kilo every year, then it will always be more!” can immediately be reassured. In spring we automatically consume more energy, so that the fat deposits are reduced (to a certain extent; Zahorska-Markiewicz, 1980). So, dig in and enjoy.

Yes, Christmas is a great thing (at least most of the time). And with these facts, there were certainly a few tips to help you get through the holidays happy and relaxed. Finally, we from psyCH would like to wish you a Merry Christmas !

Bibliography :
  • Andersson, I., & Rössner, S. (1992). The Christmas factor in obesity therapy. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16(12), 1013–1015.
  • Burgoyne, C. B., & Routh, D. A. (1991). Constraints on the use of money as a gift at Christmas: the role of status and intimacy∗. Journal of Economic Psychology, 12(1), 47–69. doi: 10.1016/0167-4870(91)90043-S
  • Howard, D. J. (1992). Gift-Wrapping Effects on Product Attitudes: A Mood-Biasing Explanation. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 1(3), 197–223. doi:
  • Spangenberg, E. R., Grohmann, B., & Sprott, D. E. (2005). It’s beginning to smell (and sound) a lot like Christmas: the interactive effects of ambient scent and music in a retail setting. Journal of Business Research, 58(11), 1583–1589. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2004.09.005
  • Werner, C. M., Peterson-Lewis, S., & Brown, B. B. (1989). Inferences about homeowners’ sociability: Impact of christmas decorations and other cues. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 9(4), 279–296. doi: 10.1016/S0272-4944(89)80010-6
  • Zahorska-Markiewicz, B. (1980). Thermic effect of food and exercise in obesity. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 44(3), 231–235. doi: 10.1007/BF00421622
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Author : Alexander Ariu

current directions news

Why the arranging model is more important than ever in times of Covid-19

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its measures, maintaining mental health is becoming increasingly difficult for many people (FSP, 2020). We know from various studies that quarantine has a negative effect on a person’s mental state. In a review, Brooks et al. (2020) have reported the negative psychological effects of quarantine, including anxiety, sadness, nervousness, anger, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. During a quarantine, people can manifest a variety of stressors such as fear of infection, boredom, frustration, insufficient care, stigmatization, and financial loss. These stressors can cause long-term effects such as mental disorders (Brooks et al., 2020). According to the WHO, quarantine and its effect on humans could lead to higher levels of loneliness, harmful alcohol and drug consumption, depression, and it is expected that self-harm or suicidal behavior will also increase (WHO, 2020).

According to a press release of the FSP, 1300 psychologists report in a survey about an increased demand from patients since summer 2020 (FSP, 2020). More than 70% of the patients were rejected due to a lack of therapeutic capacity. Due to the corona pandemic, 31% of the participants suffered from new mental illnesses, with some of the participants already carrying a pre-existing mental burden before the corona pandemic. Furthermore, psychologists reported that 47% of their existing clients reported that corona and the nation wide lockdown worsened their symptoms (FSP, 2020). In the field of mental health, there have been barriers to care in Switzerland for quite some time (Stettler, Stocker, Gardiol, Bischof, & Künzli, 2013; Stocker et al., 2016). According to the FSP, patients often have to wait up to six months for ambulatory treatment, which is a considerable amount of waiting time while being in a position of need (FSP, 2020). 

For this reason, the barriers to ambulatory psychotherapy must be reduced as quickly as possible. Until now, ambulatory psychotherapy by psychological psychotherapists has only been reimbursed by the basic insurance as soon as they are employed under a psychiatric doctor. This is the so-called delegation model, which greatly limits the number of psychotherapy places available and leads to long waiting periods (FSP, 2020). Therefore, the critical delegation model should be replaced by the arranging model. The purpose of this model is to enable psychotherapy to be carried out by self-employed psychotherapists in the future, where the costs are also covered by the basic insurance. However, the assignment of patients to a therapist should be made on the instructions of a medical doctor. The regulation change, which is necessary for the introduction of the arranging model, has been available since summer 2019. The consultation process has been completed since October 2019, and the Health Commissions of the Council of States and National Council also support the change. It is now up to the Federal Council to ensure that, in the near future, all people have rapid access to psychotherapeutic services financed by the basic insurance (FSP, 2020).  

Bibliography :
  • Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912–920. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8
  • Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen [FSP] (2020). Covid und die Psyche – Mehr Anfragen bei Psychologen seit dem Sommer. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from 
  • World Health Organization [WHO] (2020). Mental health and COVID-19. Retrieved November 11, 2020, from 
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  • Standing Jake (n.d). How to address business growth barriers. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from

Author : Alexander Ariu

news psyCH aktuell

What is the “Kick-off Event” of psyCH and what happens there?

You may have heard of psyCH before or at least you have seen some posters or flyers in the corridors of your school. psyCH is a student organization consisting of future psychologists from different disciplines. The goal of psyCH is to promote the interests of psychology students and to unite different psychology circles to create a large national and international network of students. This is mainly intended to serve the networking of different students and professional associations. Besides the annual psyKO and the operation of psyPra, we have other events, such as the kick-off event.

The kick-off event took place in mid-August in Basel, where most of the psyCH members from the 2020/21 mandate met for the first time. This event was about getting to know all new and old members first, but also about some organization. From the schedule of the Kick-off Event, we started with a short overview of “What is psyCH?’”. For example, we got some interesting information about the vision and mission of psyCH which you can find on our website under the “About us” section. We also set some goals for 2021, for example, we want to join forces with other (local or national) student associations for common projects and we want to increase our online and offline visibility, so that we can refer to different events like the psyKo and the psyCH Trainers School.

After the organizational part, we participated in a short but amusing team building program where we shared some stories about ourselves. The activity was very relaxing and it allowed everyone to come together and laugh warmly. It certainly made the day nicer. The lunch was also quite nice because as we all know, food connects people in conversation.

After that, we worked a little bit in our so-called, “Buddy-working session”. During this time, we met with various buddies (our Heads of different disciplines), where we had to clarify some organizational points for the mandate 2020/2021. The Buddy-working session resulted in a nice and large output of information, which each member presented briefly. Finally, the kick-off event concluded in a picture, which can be seen above. In this picture, you can find the course and the goals for psyCH in this and next year.  

We hope this article gave you an understanding of our Kick-off event. Anyway, the experience was very cool, and everybody had the change to participate in the organization and vote anonymously for certain decisions. All in all, The communication was very open, and it was well organized.

Featured image:
  • Weber, A-S., (2020). Kick-off event 2020.

Author : Alexander Ariu

current directions

Why do we dream?

What is a dream?

Dreams include thoughts, images, and emotions that are experienced during sleep. They can range in between extremely emotional to very fleeting, vague, or confusing. Some dreams are pleasant, while others are sad or frightening. Sometimes dreams tend to have a clear story, while many others tend to make no sense at all (Cherry, 2020). There are many unknowns about dreaming and sleeping. What scientists know is that almost everyone dreams every time they sleep, for about two hours a night in total, whether or not they remember it when they wake up (NINDS, 2019). The most vivid dreams occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and these are the dreams we are most likely to remember. We also dream during non-rapid eye movement (non-REM), but it is known that these dreams are less frequently remembered (De Gennaro et al., 2011). In general, the dream content is collected from the subjective memories of the dreamer upon awakening. Increasingly, objective measures are also used for observation. For example, researchers in one study created a rudimentary dream content map that was able to trace people’s dreams in real-time using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pattern, which was confirmed by the dreamers’ reports after waking up (Horikawa, Tamaki, Miyawaki, & Kamitani, 2013).

But apart from what is contained in a particular dream, the question arises as to why we dream at all.

Why do we dream?

The question of why we dream has fascinated various experts for thousands of years. Despite scientific studies on the function of dreams, there is still no clear response to why we have dreams. Although much about dreaming remains uncertain, many experts have developed theories to explain the purpose of dreaming and new empirical studies are also providing greater clarity. Some of the better-known dream theories state that the function of dreaming is to express our deepest desires, process emotions, consolidate memories, and gain practice in dealing with potential dangers (Cherry, 2020). Many claim that we dream from a combination of these and other factors rather than sticking to one singular theory. Moreover, while many researchers believe that dreams are essential for emotional, mental, and physical well-being, some scientists believe that dreams serve no useful purpose at all (Ruby, 2011).

  • Cherry, K. (2020). Why do we dream?. verywellmind. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from
  • De Gennaro, L., Cipolli, C., Cherubini, A., Assogna, F., Cacciari, C., Marzano, C., . . . Spalletta, G. (2011). Amygdala and hippocampus volumetry and diffusivity in relation to dreaming. Human Brain Mapping, 32(9), 1458-1470. doi:10.1002/hbm.21120
  • Horikawa, T., Tamaki, M., Miyawaki, Y., & Kamitani, Y. (2013). Neural Decoding of Visual Imagery During Sleep. Science, 340(6132), 639-642. doi:10.1126/science.1234330
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from
  • Ruby, P. (2011). Experimental Research on Dreaming: State of the Art and Neuropsychoanalytic Perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology, 2(286). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00286


Author: Alexander Ariu

student life

How do I get an internship in psychology?

Internships offer the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into a sector or a company, to make contacts, to learn about other aspects of one’s own field of study, or to put learned theory into practice.

In order to choose the right internship position, clear ideas should first be developed about which position will help you advance professionally. Interested students need to know which practical experience is desired in a particular sector.

  • If there is a clear desire for a specific job, first experiences in this area can already be gained with a concrete internship. This is an advantage for later applications. Example: Practicing the handling of interviews and questionnaires during an internship at the career guidance office.
  • If your job wish is still unclear, you can use an internship to get a taste of areas that are of interest to you. For example: During a research internship you can try out whether you enjoy your scientific work.
When should I do an internship? 

It is never too early to gain professional experience. It is ideal if you have already completed an internship or several internships during your bachelor’s degree. At this stage, you probably have not really made up your mind and can get a taste of different areas. This makes it easier to find your professional focus later on. In the Master’s program, you should be able to decide on a specific field. 

It is still possible to change even then, but the more intensively you concentrate on one area, the quicker you can get used to it. For example, companies appreciate it very much if you know your way around a field well and have some experience.

Possible practice areas: 
  • Psychiatric and psychosomatic clinics (e.g. UPD, UPK, PUKZ, etc.)
  • Child and youth psychiatric services
  • Universities (research internship, assistant)
  • Research institutions
  • Organizational area (personnel selection and development)
  • Educational guidance centers
  • Career and occupational guidance
  • School Psychology Service
  • Psychotherapeutic Practices
  • Outpatient psychological and psychiatric services
  • Addiction clinics
  • Rehabilitation Clinic
  • (…)
How or where can I find an internship? 

The search for an internship is of course very different for everyone due to individual interests, which is why the search and the approach is always different. Therefore, I will try to mention some points that might help in general.

Network: By network, we mean a pool of friends, relatives, colleagues, seminar instructors, or even lecturers. Through these networks it is possible to collect information from various internship offers from different institutions. Depending on this, you can even learn from the network that an internship will soon be announced and that you can send an unsolicited application before. The bigger the network is, the more information one has available for the potential search for an internship. Exciting information can be obtained from every contact. If one person is not able to help you with your intern search, you can ask the person for another person who can help you. In this way, you might be able to find a person who has a vacant internship place through a recommendation. By the way, this principle also applies to all jobs in general.

Find open internship positions: This link list is a little help. It contains the most important links from my point of view and should give you some ideas on how and where you can search for internships in psychology. It is worth clicking through the pages to find out more.

  • psyPra: There you will find internships in various fields (organizations, clinics, institutions, universities, etc.)
  • Aerzte-Jobs: It helps to find a job for clinical psychologists. From time to time you can find internships in various clinics.
  • Research internships at the UZH: There is a wide range of internships available at the University of Zurich. Of course, all other university institutions also offer research internships. You only have to consult their sites regularly and look out for vacancies in the corridors from time to time.
  • SKJP: Internships in the field of child and youth psychology (school psychology).

I hope I was able to help you with this link list and this article. Of course, there are many more search options on the internet, but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that you can exchange information with others so that you know much more and expand your network. As I said before, the bigger your network is, the bigger your success for a cool internship.

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Author: Alexander Ariu

current directions


Resilience in developmental psychology refers to the ability of children to develop normally despite stressful circumstances and conditions. In general, resilience is the ability of people to react appropriately and flexibly to changing life situations and demands and to master difficult, frustrating and stressful situations without psychological consequences. Individual differences in resilience can then explain why some people do not experience such consequences despite stress, which means that the topic of resilience in the broadest sense can be counted among the topics of positive psychology (Stangl, 2020).

The origins of resilience research go back to the 1950s when the American developmental psychologist Emmy Werner began a study on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in which she observed 698 boys and girls over four decades whose chances of living a successful life were poor because of neglect, poverty, and abuse. Often the marriages of the parents were troubled, no money was available, many parents were addicted to alcohol. But in the end, there was a big surprise, because normally one would have predicted a sad fate for the children, but since this long-term study, it was clear that even if the conditions are bad, some people master their lives well. A third of Kauai’s children grew up into caring, self-confident and capable adults, both in their jobs and in personal relationships. The strong children of Kauai had something that the others did not have. There was at least one loving caregiver to take care of them, whereby the confidant does not necessarily have to be a mother or father, but another caregiver can also fill this role (one significant other). (Werner & Smith, 2001). Werner summarized her findings in three protective factors:

  • A temperament and an average intelligence that has a positive effect on parents/caregivers. In this context, certain energy, robustness and a socially binding nature are also mentioned, because children who possess these qualities receive more positive attention from their parents or caregivers (Werner & Smith, 2001).
  • An emotional bond with the parents or substitute caregivers who encouraged the children to trust and be independent. This also included the children’s conviction that they were responsible for their own successes. This conviction enables adolescents to react actively to adverse circumstances and also to seek out people who can give them advice (Werner & Smith, 2001).
  • The support of society, which provides sustainable values, whereby schools, in particular, have a strong influence on the development of children’s resilience by recognizing and rewarding their skills. This aspect shows the responsibility of society in terms of forming resilient skills in children (Werner & Smith, 2001).
Resilience in everyday life

For the individual, being a resilient person means being able to deal successfully with stressful life events and with the negative consequences of stress. It is crucial not to be discouraged by resistance in life, but to learn from it and integrate these experiences into one’s own life. A basic or basic trust that is formed in childhood is important for this, but the genetic make-up also determines the mental resistance. 

Resilient people often have good relationships with friends and partners and have a positive self-image of themselves. These people have a broader interest, are disciplined, tend to be less catastrophic and also look for positive aspects when faced with negative life events. Persistent negative feelings, long-lasting dissatisfaction, and tension contribute to mental illness, while a positive mood promotes and relaxes creative thinking (Stangl, 2020). Resilience research gives some practical recommendations:

  • Friends and a social life that surround you is crucial.
  • Develop a sense of non-material values.
  • Positive feelings like cheerfulness, humor, fascination, and love can neutralize negative events.
  • Asking yourself whether everything you have taken on in your daily life is still relevant and whether you enjoy doing it. Admittedly, every job or obligation also involves unpleasant activities, although this is only problematic if the negative clearly predominates.

In the opinion of experts, resilience can be learned to a certain extent and can also be increased in adults by solution orientation, promoting optimism, and the assumption of responsibility. Especially in children, resilience factors can be promoted, which a child acquires in interaction with the environment and through the successful accomplishment of age-specific developmental tasks (Stangl, 2020).

Following factors strengthen children and increase their resistance (Fröhlich-Gildhoff & Rönnau-Böse, 2009): 

  • Self-control capability
  • Social skills
  • Positive self-perception
  • Problem-solving competence
  • Conviction of self-efficacy
  • Appropriate management of stress
  • Fröhlich-Gildhoff, K. & Rönnau-Böse, M. (2009). Resilienz. München: Reinhardt. 
  • Stangl, W. (2020). Resilienz. Online Lexikon für Psychologie und Pädagogik. Retrieved March 10, 2020, from
  • Werner, E. E. & Smith, R. S. (2001). Journeys from childhood to midlife: Risk, resilience, and recovery. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
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Author: Alexander Ariu

current directions

Personality tests – fraud or meaningful help?

In the context of recruitment procedures, most people have already had to deal with personality tests. Since personality tests have their origin in the diagnostic and therapy of mental disorders there are still prejudices against such procedures. In the USA it has been a common practice to take such tests. Furthermore, in Germany, the decision-making process which a personality test can provide is gratefully accepted by more and more companies. There is a wide range of testing methods available, and so there are some serious and reliable tests as well as several tests that are less useful or not useful at all.

This small blog entry is about giving an overview of personality tests, where they can be used, what kind of tests are available and what you should consider (quality criteria, manipulability …).

Use of personality tests

First of all, it is important to realize that such a screening alone cannot reflect whether a candidate is a suitable candidate for the job. Nor is it possible to capture the entire character. The personality tests merely help to confirm the impression gained from the application and interview and/or to provide additional information. However, assisting in the selection and placement of personnel is by no means the only purpose for which personality profiles can be useful. Personality tests are used in the preparation of an application procedure, in the creation of competency models and requirement profiles. Also, they can be informative in questions of career planning and management development. These tests are also used more often for training (especially team development), coaching and career counseling. In all these applications, personality profiles serve as a basis for feedback processes and/or as a supplement to the basis for decision-making. Additionally, a self-test can be helpful in structuring and supplementing self-image and requirements to illustrate one’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential.

Types of personality tests

A distinction is made between projective and objective personality tests.

Projective tests: Projective test procedures work with ambiguous pictures, abstract patterns or drawings. In such a test the participants should describe what they see. In this way, they project their experiences, feelings, and conflicts into the test material. A well-known projective test is the Rorschach test, in which inkblot images are interpreted individually. This type of personality analysis is unsuitable for personnel management and is rarely used in clinical practice.

Objective tests: Objective personality tests are usually questionnaire-based procedures that are relatively simple to carry out, but the evaluation (with the help of software) is quite complex. These questionnaire procedures consist of questions and statements on which comments must be made.

An example

  • Question: I am often uncertain about my decisions.
  • Answer possibilities: from does not agree at all to agrees exactly (e.g. 1-6)

The personality traits of a test person determined in this way can then be compared with the average values of a norm sample and/or existing requirement profiles.

Quality features

Serious and informative personality tests can be recognized by the following quality criteria.

  • Objectivity: The result must be independent of the test instructor and the test conditions are always the same for all participants.
  • Validity (=expressiveness): How accurate is the test in its statements? A test is valid if it measures exactly the characteristics it is supposed to measure.
  • Reliability (=measurement accuracy): If a test is repeated with the same answers, the same result should be obtained.

If one of these quality criteria is not sufficiently applied, the test can be described as not being of good quality.

Possible factors that could falsify the test
  • Manipulability: Particularly in the area of employee selection, but also all other areas of application, there is always the problem of manipulability of the results by the respondent. This is mainly due to the fact that the questions almost always show which characteristics the answers show and which of them are positively evaluated for the respective purpose. A good test procedure for personality analysis is therefore characterized by the presence of control questions that recognize the logic (inner coherence) of the answering behavior and would indicate possible manipulation.
  • Language problems: Unnecessarily complicated formulations, long sentences, double negations, and passive formulations can lead to linguistic misunderstandings and misinterpretation. A good personality test tries to avoid these traps as much as possible.
  • Social desirability: Most people want to please and thus tend to give answers that are considered positive and desirable. In personality tests, this desire to make a good impression can falsify the results. This type of falsification differs from conscious manipulation in that it is unconscious and unintentional. The impairment due to social desirability can be reduced and controlled with control scales. Such control scales consist of questions about behavior that is rarely found but which is socially desirable (e.g. always washing your hands before eating) and behavior that is common even though it is socially undesirable (e.g. the use of white lies).

Despite these potential sources of mistakes, personality tests can be a practical tool and minimize errors of judgment if they are conducted solidly and seriously. However, it is important to be aware of their limitations and weaknesses and never apply them in isolation or view the results dogmatically.


Dibbern, H. (2016). Persönlichkeitstests – Sinnvolle Hilfe oder Humbug?. Retrieved December 29, 2019,

Author: Alexander Ariu

current directions

Psychology’s role in environmental issues

Climate change, which has been increasingly identified in recent decades, confronts us with one of the greatest challenges of our time. International agreements such as the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 have already taken the first decisive steps towards a more sustainable energy policy. Switzerland has also recognized the need to change its energy policy and has initiated the transition of the energy system with its “Energy Strategy 2050”. However, the success of this energy system transformation depends not only on the development and expansion of new infrastructures and technologies but also on fundamental changes in consumer behavior and decision-making patterns. The potential for such changes is huge: the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences estimate that energy consumption could be reduced by up to 30 percent by 2050 compared with 2010. Behavioral sciences, and psychology, in particular, have the potential to make a major contribution to energy system transformation by providing information on the mechanisms underlying consumer behavior and the factors that favor the behavioral changes needed to reduce energy consumption (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

Previous approaches to promote more sustainable energy consumption have focused on providing information and financial incentives. For example, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy provides brochures on the subject of energy saving. Additionally, some Swiss cantons support the purchase of energy-efficient vehicles with tax benefits. However, research in behavioral economics and psychology has repeatedly shown that consumers only behave rationally to a limited extent, especially when it comes to complex issues such as climate protection. Therefore, these measures only partially achieve the desired behavioral changes among consumers. In recent years, the effectiveness of so-called “nudging” has therefore been increasingly investigated. These are interventions that, through small changes in the decision-making environment, can lead to more energy-efficient decisions and behaviors without creating financial incentives or restricting consumer choice through prohibitions (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

An example of such a nudge is the so-called “default effect” (= the tendency to keep the default settings). In one study, two economists show that the careful selection of defaults in the energy sector can also be an extremely effective way of persuading consumers to make more sustainable decisions. As part of the study, around 42,000 households were able to choose between different tariffs of an energy supplier. Each of these tariffs offered the option of purchasing electricity from renewable energy sources for a small additional charge. Consumers who already were pre-selected with this “green” add-on option were ten times more likely to use renewable electricity than consumers who first had to actively choose this option (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

How can this effect be explained? One explanation is that consumers see the pre-selection of certain options as a standard or recommendation. The two economists offer a further explanation: The conscious decision against a green electricity tariff, which should be preferred from a moral point of view, could be much more difficult for consumers than not to choose this tariff if there are no defaults (Brosch & Mertens, 2017).

In this example, a study of environmental psychological interventions by economists was briefly described. However, economists are not the only ones who deal with environmental psychological interventions. Other professional groups are also involved in such interventions, such as environmental psychologists.

Environmental psychologists deal both with the influences of the environment on humans and with the influences of humans on the environment. In the psychological sense, the environment is regarded as the outer physical-material and sociocultural habitat of humans. Accordingly, this does not only mean the “natural” environment but also, for example, the urban areas (Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt, 2019).

Environmental psychological research relates to topics such as the perception, assessment, and design of environments. Thus, environmental psychology provides a crucial contribution to explaining, understanding and predicting environmental human behavior and experience. Environmental psychology is very interdisciplinary, application-oriented and has high relevance for society as a whole due to its broad range of topics (Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt, 2019).

Topics for environmental-psychological questions are for example:

  • Environmental perception and assessment
  • Environmental planning, environmental design, participation processes
  • Spatial behavior and mobility
  • Environmental awareness and environmental protection behavior
  • Environmental education and influencing environmentally relevant behavior
  • Mediation in environmental conflicts
  • Evaluation of environmental actions

 (Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt, 2019).

  • Brosch, T., & Mertens, S. (2017). Kleine Intervention mit grosser Wirkung – Green Nudges als Feinjustierungen am Anpassungsmechanismus an sozialen Normen. Psychoscope, (3), 10 – 13.
  • Netzwerk Psychologie und Umwelt (2019). Was ist Umweltpsychologie?. Retrieved December 14, 2019, from
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Author: Alexander Ariu

current directions

Update coverage of psychotherapeutic care

On 26 June 2019, the Federal Council instructed the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) to conduct a consultation procedure on the adjustment of the Ordinance on Health Insurance and the Ordinance on Nursing Benefits on the revision of psychological psychotherapy as part of obligatory health insurance (OHI). The consultation draft contains a new regulation on psychological psychotherapy within the framework of the OHI. Psychological psychotherapists who are licensed to perform psychotherapy should be able to provide all psychotherapeutic services independently and on their own account on the basis of a medical prescription. So far, the basic insurance only covers these costs if the service is performed under the supervision of a doctor (BAG, 2019).

Psychotherapists welcome the Federal Council’s proposal to restructure psychological psychotherapy. The amendment helps to eliminate the existing supply problems in rural areas and among children and young people. However, psychotherapists, professional associations and students have concerns about the current proposal. Until October 17th, 2019 (end of the consultation period), comments could be sent electronically to sub-offices of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) electronically (BAG, 2019). An aspect which is disturbing about the current proposal, for the professional associations FSP and SBAP for example, is that the regulation has issued an order for only fifteen meetings. Hence, a doctor’s appointment would have to be arranged again after only fifteen sessions in order to be prescribed another fifteen sessions. This would be cost-increasing, without creating additional benefit, as well as disadvantaging psychological psychotherapists compared to medical service providers (FSP, 2019). There is also resistance among experts concerning the regulation that a report should now be sent to the doctor of the health insurance company after 30 sessions so that the therapy can be continued. Here the professional associations demand that the previous arrangement of 40 meetings should be maintained, as this has proven to be successful in practice and the limitation of 30 meetings could cause additional work and costs (FSP, 2019).

  • Bundesamt für Gesundheit (BAG) (2019). Änderung KVV und KLV betreffend Neuregelung der psychologischen Psychotherapie und der Zulassungsvoraussetzungen nicht-ärztlicher Leistungserbringer. Retrieved on 27 October 2019.
  • Föderation der Schweizer Psychologinnen und Psychologen (FSP) (2019). Position der FSP zum Verordnungsentwurf zur neuen Psychotherapieregelung. Retrieved on 27 October 2019.

Author: Alexander Ariu