Saturday, June 14, 2014

Examination of Clinical Psychology

          As a major field of psychology, clinical psychology focuses on understanding, the assessment, and treatment of behavioral and psychological disorders and problems. Plante (2011), “in fact, clinical psychology focuses its efforts on the ways in which the human psyche interacts with physical, emotional, and social aspects of health and dysfunction” (p. 5). It makes an attempt at using the principles of psychology to alleviate, predict, and understand behavioral, social, psychological, biological, emotional, and intellectual components of human functioning (Plante, 2011). Also, it makes use the principles of human behavior for assisting individuals with various concerns and problems experienced during one’s lifespan in their physical selves, emotions, and in relationships (Plante, 2011). Clinical psychology has a vast history and evolving nature. Research and statistics hold a significant role in regard to this major field of psychology. As a field of psychology, clinical psychology shares some similarities with and other professions; such as school psychology, psychiatry, and social work, but numerous differences do exist that distinguish it from these and other disciplines.
The History of Clinical Psychology
          Clinical psychology as a field developed from the discipline psychology, which in turn developed from philosophy. The thoughts and ideas of numerous philosophers such as one of the most influential thinkers ever, Sigmund Freud, in regard to the human mind and behavior, sparked the foundation of what is known as psychology today. However, psychology did not develop into a discipline distinct from philosophy until 1879. At this point, at the University of Leipzig in Germany, German philosopher Wilhelm Wundt, also known as the father of experimental psychology developed the first psychological laboratory, which resulted in the formation of psychology as a discipline distinct from philosophy (Plante, 2011). Also, what contributed to psychology becoming a distinct discipline occurred in 1892, with the formation of the American Psychological Association (APA). Four years after this development at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, American psychologist Lightner Witmer opened the first psychological clinic (Watson, 1953). Hence, this resulted in the emergence of clinical psychology as a field of psychology. In regard to specialty areas of psychology, clinical psychology is the more so popular area. Plante (2011), “today clinical psychology is a complex and diverse field encompassing numerous subspecialties and a continuum of scientific and practitioner-focused enterprises” (p. 31).
The Evolving Nature of Clinical Psychology
          Despite the APA lacking an interest in clinical psychology because of a primary interest in scientific research occurring in an academic setting and not of clinical applications, clinical psychology still grows at a rapid pace in the twentieth century during the first two decades (Plante, 2011). At this point, clinical psychology grew rapidly in spite of the rejection of the APA. However, this is not the determining factor of the evolving tendency of clinical psychology. One reason clinical psychology is ever evolving is because of Sigmund Freud’s influential thoughts and work that helped mold the direction of clinical psychology. Numerous psychologists have either sought to disprove Freud’s work and develop other schools of thought in regard to the human mind and behavior or sought to further Freud’s work. Although, clinical psychology instinctively has an evolving nature because of its concern to understand, assess, and treat behavioral and psychological disorders and problems. Therefore, clinical psychology continually uses research and the scientific method to develop a better understandings, assessments, and treatments of such disorders and problems.
The Role of Research and Statistics in Clinical Psychology
          Integrated into clinical psychology’s foundation is research. Applied and basic research enables clinical psychology to answer questions in regard human behavior, treatment, and diagnosis of psychological disorders and problems (Plante, 2011). Fundamental to the practice and science of clinical psychology is research. In regard to statistics, it is an aspect of the scientific method used in research that enables clinical researchers to collect statistical data that enables them to determine if significant information is relative to human behavior, diagnosis, and treatments of psychological disorders and problems. Both research and statistics play a significant role in clinical psychology.  
Clinical Psychology and other Professions
          Numerous differences exist between clinical psychology and other professions, like psychiatry, social work, and school psychology. For instance, clinical psychology and psychiatry are two of the most dominant mental health professions that share a close relationship; whereas, they share a common interest of treating and understanding mental illness (Haslam & Lusher, 2011). However, they differ as far as clinical activities, professional training to become a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, and various other respects, such as for beliefs about the treatment, etiology, and nature of mental illness. As well as differing in practice characteristics, professional roles, scientific research, and publication of relevant findings in regard to understanding, treating, and alleviating mental illness (Haslam & Lusher, 2011).
          However, researchers with psychology and psychiatric backgrounds commonly collaborate and publish with each other, but the journals that they publish in remain set apart by disciplines. In regard to social work, unlike in psychology, social workers do not obtain an education as extensive as that of clinical psychologists and are not as extensively trained in performing research or the use of testing instruments of psychology as with clinical psychologists (Plante, 2011). In regard to school psychology, school psychologists usually only obtain an MA in psychology, and few obtain a Ph.D.; whereas, clinical psychologists obtain a Ph.D. Also, school psychologists extensively work in special education, secondary, and elementary schools; whereas, clinical psychologists work in varying education fields, private and public practices, teach and perform research in clinical settings.
          The major key differences among clinical psychology and other professions of  mental health are that clinical psychology is an integration of clinical knowledge, theory, and science, that is, a means to understand, relieve, and prevent psychologically-based dysfunction or distress; therefore, promoting development and subjective well-being.
          Focusing on assessing, treating, and understanding behavioral and psychological disorders and problems is the nature of clinical psychology. Clinical psychology’s history is vast, and it is the foundation of a discipline that has an evolving nature. Research and statistics have held a critical role; whereas, enabling clinical psychology to maintain the focus of assessing, treating, and understanding behavioral and psychological disorders and problems. Numerous differences exist between clinical psychology and related fields, but the major difference is the nature of clinical psychology being an integration of clinical knowledge, theory, and science.  
Plante, T.G. (2011). Contemporary Clinical Psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Watson, R. I. (1953). A Brief History of Clinical Psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 50(5), 321-346. doi:

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