Clinical psychology has a full history that dates back to the early days of Greek philosophy. The combination of philosophy, current psychology and science has created a specific discipline in clinical psychology. Research continues to improve and evolve this branch of psychology. There are certain distinctions that set clinical psychology apart from other areas of this discipline and this paper will explore not only those distinctions but also the history of clinical psychology.
The History of Clinical Psychology
The beginnings of psychology in general can be found in the era of Greek philosophy. Early philosophical thinkers saw the connection between the mind and body including the influence that relationship had concerning emotional sickness. Hippocrates, Plato, and Aristotle were a few of those that recognized the soul or spirit as being the primary force of the body. They also recognized that problems within the soul could manifest in physical illness (Plante, 2011, p. 34). In the middle ages, any kind of mental, emotional or physical sickness was thought to be characteristic of sin or evil and treatments of such issues were dealt with on a spiritual level. The following Renaissance era was all about scientific research and discovery taking the previous beliefs on spiritual origins and disproving them. Illness was established as something more explainable by scientific research rather than spiritual and metaphysical beliefs (Plante, 2011).
As the nineteenth century rolled in, members of psychological study started to have a more accurate understanding of the connection between the body and mind. Sigmund Freud was one such forward thinker and he promoted theories that unconscious thoughts of the mind can hold a strong influence on one’s health drawing on the original beliefs of the Greeks (Parsons, 1958). The actual emergence of psychology began with the development of the first laboratory and book of psychology by Wilhelm Wundt.
Development was quick after this first large step even though the new concepts and principles of psychology were being applied to peoples’ issues. Also the wars of our history provided a platform for the world of clinical psychology. Service members emerged in war required specialized treatments which led to the development of psychometric assessments. Later developments led to the creation of evolved models of guidelines and training for the education of clinical psychologists (Plante, 2011).
Clinical Psychology’s Evolving Nature
Clinical psychology has a fundamental instrument that develops its evolving nature which is described by its relationship with modern medicine and used of scientific methods (Kazdin, 2008). Clinical psychology continues to develop applications as new scientific evidence mounts. Contemporary clinical psychology embodies the scientific advances of science mixing in a deep understanding of the mind. The relationship of practice and research continue to come together to facilitate continual improvements in treatments and this relationship is a necessary element to the evolving nature (Kazdin, 2008). The only possible challenge for clinical psychology and research is the challenge of trying to customize treatment to meet the patient’s individual needs when there really is no defined outline of every individualistic need for each individual patient (Kazdin, 2008 p. 17).
The Role of Research and Statistics in Clinical Psychology
Research is a vital aspect of any psychology and clinical psychology is no different. Research provides the empirical foundation to answer questions with validity. Statistics is a vital part of this research since this area of the research facilitates researchers being able to conclude if the information is substantial and relevant. Research is also vital because to clinical psychology because it boosts therapy methods which leads to the improvement of one’s life and it also helps discover effective methods to diagnose and treat human behavioral issues (Plante, 2011). The scientific method of empirical study also benefits the researchers themselves enabling them to gain critical thinking skills. Research is one of the most fundamental practices that allows for the betterment of clinical psychology (Plante, 2011).
Clinical Psychology as it Differs from Other Disciplines
The primary differences between other disciplines and clinical psychology involve the targeted training, area of focus and possibly even the educational requirements. Some psychologists participating in the area of clinical diagnosis, such as a school psychologist or social worker, generally must earn a master’s degree but other specialized areas of clinical psychology might require a doctorate (Plante, 2011). School psychologists also specialize primarily in working with children and society’s youth whereas social workers can serve a more broad population and work in hospitals, schools or even county programs. Areas of counseling psychology are very similar to clinical psychology and there is the belief that the two separate groups do not even need to exist separately (Kazdin, 2008).
There are also psychiatrists who have the added, extensive education and training in the medical arena and for all intended purposes they are physicians. They not only counsel as psychologists but are allowed to issue psychiatric medicine. Then there are other various mental health care professionals such as psychiatric nurses, specialized counselors, and industry and organization counselors who all provide clinical services. Even though clinical psychology differs in some aspects from other counseling professions, all of them have the purpose of using psychological principles to understand human behavior, helping individuals to live healthier and happier lives (Plante, 2011).
As this paper has laid out, there are many various contributions to the formation of clinical psychology becoming its own discipline. The evolution has traveled a long road but it has been steady and continuous with new information being discovered through scientific methods. Philosophy kicked off the curiosity that lead to future contributions by pioneers such as Freud and his psychoanalytic methods. Clinical psychology does hold its differences amongst other disciplines of psychology but the overall goal of all disciplines still remains to serve the general human population, attempting to give everyone a chance at a better quality of life.
Kazdin, A. E. (2008). Evidence based treatment and practice: new opportunities to bridge clinical research and practice. American Psychologist, 63(3), 146-159. Parsons, T. (1958). Social Structure and the Development of Personality: Freud’s Contribution to the Integration of Psychology and Sociology. Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes, 21(10), 321-340. Plante, T. (2011). Contemporary clinical psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
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