The Different Approaches to Clinical Psychology

1. Introduction: what is clinical psychology?

Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with problems related to mental illness and abnormal behavior. It is concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental disorders. Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, community mental health centers, private practices and schools.

The field of clinical psychology has its roots in the late 19th century, when Sigmund Freud developed the theory of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a method of treatment for mental disorders that focuses on the unconscious mind. Freud believed that many mental disorders are caused by repressed memories and emotions.

In the early 20th century, behaviorism emerged as a new approach to psychology. The behaviorist approach focuses on observable behavior, rather than on inner mental states. The most famous behaviorist was John B. Watson, who developed the theory of classical conditioning.

In the mid-20th century, humanistic psychology emerged as a reaction to the mechanistic view of humans held by behaviorists and Freudians. The humanistic approach focuses on the unique qualities of humans, such as self-awareness and creativity. The most famous humanistic psychologist was Carl Rogers, who developed the theory of client-centered therapy.

In the late 20th century, cognitive-behavioral therapy emerged as a synthesis of the cognitive and behavioral approaches. This approach focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that contribute to mental disorders. The most famous cognitive-behavioral therapists were Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck.

The Gestalt approach is another type of therapy that emerged in the 20th century. Gestalt therapy focuses on the present moment and on helping clients to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. The most famous Gestalt therapist was Fritz Perls.

Family systems therapy is a type of therapy that views families as complex systems. This approach focuses on changing family dynamics that contribute to mental disorders. The most famous family systems therapist was Salvador Minuchin.

2. Psychodynamic approach

The psychodynamic approach to clinical psychology has its roots in the work of Sigmund Freud. Freud was a medical doctor who began to study psychoanalysis in 1885 (Freud, 1896). He developed this new method of psychological treatment after working with patients who had hysterical conversion disorder (a condition in which patients experience physical symptoms without any organic cause). Freud found that many of his patients had experienced trauma in their childhoods, such as sexual abuse or abandonment (Masson, 1984). He believed that these repressed memories were causing their hysterical symptoms (Freud, 1896).

To treat his patients, Freud used a method called psychoanalysis (Freud, 1900). Psychoanalysis is a process in which patients talk about their thoughts and feelings in order to bring repressed memories into conscious awareness (Freud, 1900). By doing this, Freud believed that patients could relieve their symptoms (Freud, 1896).

In addition to treating individual patients, Freud also wrote about his theories in several books (e.g., Freud, 1900). In these books, he outlined his ideas about the structure of the personality and the dynamics of human behavior (e.g., Freud’s stages of psychosexual development). He also described different types of mental disorders and proposed explanations for why they occur (e.g., Freud’s theory of repression).

3. Behavioral approach

The behavioral approach to clinical psychology has its roots in the work of John B. Watson. Watson was a professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University who is best known for his work on behaviorism (Watson, 1913). He proposed that psychology should be a science that focuses on observable behavior, rather than on inner mental states (Watson, 1913).

To support his view that psychology should be a science of behavior, Watson conducted a famous experiment with a young boy called Albert (Watson & Rayner, 1920). In this experiment, Watson showed Albert a white rat and then made a loud noise behind him. As a result of this conditioning, Albert developed a fear of rats (Watson & Rayner, 1920). This experiment demonstrated that it is possible to condition a fear response in humans.

Based on his experiments with Albert and other animals, Watson proposed that all behavior is learned through conditioning (Watson, 1924). He believed that there are three types of conditioning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theory (SLT) (Bandura, 1977). Classical conditioning is when a conditioned stimulus (CS) is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) to produce a conditioned response (CR) (Watson, 1924). Operant conditioning is when behavior is controlled by reinforcement or punishment (Skinner, 1938). Social learning theory is when people learn by observing the behavior of others (Bandura, 1977).

4. Humanistic approach

The humanistic approach to clinical psychology has its roots in the work of Carl Rogers. Rogers was a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago who is best known for his work on client-centered therapy (Rogers, 1951). He proposed that the therapist-client relationship is the most important factor in determining whether therapy is successful (Rogers, 1951).

Rogers believed that all humans have certain inherent qualities, such as self-awareness and creativity (Rogers, 1961). He also believed that humans have the ability to grow and change throughout their lives (Rogers, 1961). This view of humans is in contrast to the mechanistic view held by behaviorists and Freudians.

Rogers developed client-centered therapy as a way to help clients grow and change. In this type of therapy, the therapist provides empathy and unconditional positive regard to the client (Rogers, 1951). The therapist also challenges the client to grow in self-awareness and self-acceptance (Rogers, 1951).

5. Cognitive-behavioral approach

The cognitive-behavioral approach to clinical psychology has its roots in the work of Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. Ellis was a professor of psychology at Rutgers University who is best known for his work on rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) (Ellis, 1962). Beck was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania who is best known for his work on cognitive therapy (Beck, 1967).

Ellis proposed that humans are irrational creatures who often make flawed decisions based on their emotions. He believed that these irrational thoughts and emotions are often at the root of mental disorders (Ellis, 1962). To treat these disorders, Ellis developed REBT. REBT is a type of therapy that helps clients to identify and challenge their irrational thoughts and beliefs (Ellis, 1962).

Beck proposed that humans are often controlled by their negative thoughts, which he called “cognitive distortions” (Beck, 1967). These cognitive distortions are often at the root of mental disorders (Beck, 1967). To treat these disorders, Beck developed cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is a type of therapy that helps clients to identify and challenge their negative thoughts (Beck, 1967).

6. Gestalt approach

The Gestalt approach to clinical psychology has its roots in the work of Fritz Perls. Perls was a German psychiatrist who is best known for his work on Gestalt therapy (Perls, 1969). He proposed that humans are holistic beings who are often out of touch with their true selves (Perls, 1969). To help clients connect with their true selves, Perls developed Gestalt therapy.

Gestalt therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the here-and-now experience of the client (Perls, 1969). It is based on the belief that humans are holistic beings who are often unaware of their true selves (Perls, 1969). In Gestalt therapy, the therapist helps the client to become aware of their thoughts and feelings in the present moment (Perls, 1969).

7. Family systems approach

The family systems approach to clinical psychology has its roots in the work of Salvador Minuchin. Minuchin was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania who is best known for his work on family therapy (Minuchin, 1974). He proposed that families are complex systems with patterns of behavior that can be changed (Minuchin, 1974).

Minuchin developed family therapy as a way to help families change their patterns of behavior. In this type of therapy, the therapist works with the entire family to identify and change dysfunctional patterns of behavior (Minuchin, 1974). The therapist also helps families to develop new coping and problem-solving skills (Minuchin, 1974).

FAQ

The philosophical origins of different approaches to clinical psychology can be traced back to the early days of psychology as a discipline. The first approach, known as structuralism, was developed by Wilhelm Wundt and focused on the study of consciousness through introspection. This approach was later critiqued by Sigmund Freud, who developed the psychodynamic approach, which focuses on unconscious processes and conflicts. Later, behaviorism emerged as a response to psychoanalysis, focusing on observable behavior rather than internal mental states. Finally, humanistic psychology emerged in the mid-20th century as a reaction to behaviorism, with a focus on subjective experience and personal growth.

These differing philosophies impact the way clinicians practice in several ways. For example, structuralists would likely use introspection as a tool for understanding their clients’ consciousness, while behaviorists would focus on observing client behavior. Psychodynamic clinicians might explore their clients’ unconscious conflicts in order to understand their current problems, while humanistic psychologists would focus on helping their clients achieve self-actualization.

A better understanding of philosophy can help clinicians in several ways. First, it can help them better understand the theoretical underpinnings of their chosen approach and how it differs from other approaches. Second, it can provide them with tools for critically evaluating research and theory within their field. Finally, it can help them reflect on their own values and assumptions about human nature and psychological functioning