Psy 480 Elements of Clinical Psychology
April 25, 2011
Dr. Tara Gidney Thompson
The great evangelist D.T. Niles once said, “Christianity is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread” (Niles, 2010). At its most basic level, clinical psychology is the enterprise of one educated, licensed person using his or her knowledge of human behavior to address, assuage, or otherwise moderate the troubles and concerns of another person’s life—whether they be relational, affective, or physiological. Strictly speaking, clinical psychology is, “the assessment, treatment, and understanding of psychological and behavioral problems and disorders” (Plante, 2011, p. 5). Clinical psychology is a scientific endeavor, utilizing the instrument of the scientific method to inform the practice, procedures, and treatments used to address human problems. There is an interplay that exists between treatment outcome research and psychotherapy in clinical psychology—the science informs the art and the art informs the science (Plante, 2011). The point of this paper is to catalogue and compare the history and evolving nature of clinical psychology as well as to consider the specific case of counseling within the framework of clinical psychology. History
Hippocrates—the original author of the Hippocratic Oath—formed the first complete, if naïve, physiological explanation of disease and dysfunction (Plante, 2011). He proposed that imbalances in the mixture and quantity of four fluids: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood, caused several emotions and psychological maladjustment, such as sadness, irritability, and anger. It was not until the advents of Plato that it was conceived that the metaphysical realm of the soul could have an effect on the corporeal domain. However, it was to Galen that a holistic theory of medicine was formed that incorporated the physiological explanations of Hippocrates with the metaphysical explanations of Plato. Even though Galen’s ideas of bloodletting were flawed, it was a step in the direction of objective explanations of illness and disease. During the middle ages the work of Thomas Aquinas, Paracelsus, and Weyer shifted the discussion of psychology away from the metaphysical and toward physical explanations of mental illness, such as bodily causes, movements of the stars, and behavior. Furthermore, at the dawn of the Renaissance and into the nineteenth century the veil of shadow and secrecy behind the inner workings of the mind, body, and cell were ripped from his or her places and the mediums of scientific observation and laboratory investigation were instituted in the place of religion and mysticism as the sole explanation of illness. The works of Rush, Bernard, and Pinel during this period of history paved the way for more humane approaches to the abnormal and deviant—approaches that sought to alleviate psychological dysfunction rather than simply separate and restrain the dysfunctional. The birth of psychology proper came on the heels of the publishing of Wundt’s The Elements of Psychophysics in 1850 and James’ Principles of Psychology in 1890 (Plante, 2011). These publications, along with the institution of the first psychological laboratory by Wundt, culminated in the founding of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1892. The main drive behind the fledgling field of psychology was to measure empirically behavior to the end of understanding the subsidiary components of the mind itself. Hence, when clinical psychology first got on its feet four years later (1896), through the opening of the first clinic by Witmer, many psychologists frowned upon the application of the principles of human behavior to clinical situations. This was seen as a step away from a general understanding of human behavior and toward abnormal or dysfunctional psychology. Despite the initial tension between clinical psychology and mainstream psychology, the first formal...
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