Clinical Counseling Psychology

Clinical psychology has two primary goals it seeks to address. First, it aims at “generating knowledge based on scientifically valid evidence” and secondly, employing such knowledge for optimal enhancement of both mental and behavioral health (Baker, McFall & Shoham, 2009, p. 69). With the cost of mental health having increased over the last 30 years (as cited in Baker, McFall & Shoham, 2009), the importance of clinical psychology in providing a solution to the mental illnesses that have contributed to the increased cost has been enhanced. This paper aims to present the history and evolving nature of clinical counseling psychology, as well as highlighting the role that research and statistics plays in this field.

Psychology as a profession and a field worth of academic pursuit has been of a relatively young antecedent compared to disciplines such as medicine. Even so, psychology (though not referred as such) was practiced by individuals such as philosophers, poets, priests, and physicians; who sought to understand various aspects of either of, the mind, body and soul (“Clinical psychology,” 1968). Eventually, psychology and medicine have become interrelated with the advent of clinical psychology, a scientific and professional discipline that applies psychological tools and principles to better the health of individuals (Reisman, 1991). Clinical psychology today is a well-taught profession in the United States, with many professionals being involved in the provision of mental health services (Reisman, 1991).

The growth of Clinical psychology was however not rapid during its onset years. At its antecedent, clinical psychology faced challenges of delineating itself as a distinct scientific discipline worth of independently being pursued both academically and professionally (Wallin, 1913).  Many scientists’ perception was that the content of clinical was sufficiently provided for by disciplines such as physiology (Wallin, 1913). In the latter 1800s however, the work of psychologists such as Wilhelm Wundt and William James provided a basis for clinical psychology to take root (Reisman, 1991). Wundt is credited as the father of scientific psychology due to his establishment of the first psychology-oriented laboratory in 1875 at the University of Leipzig (Reisman, 1991, p. 14). Later, another psychologist (Lightner Witmer, a student of Wundt), working at the university of Pennsylvania started a training program in a field he subsequently referred to as “clinical psychology” (Reisman, 1991, p. 37).  In 1896, Witmer founded the first psychological clinic, providing the field with a point to advance its progress (Reisman, 1991, 39). Witmer’s interest in clinical activities of psychology is attributed his successful helping a young boy to overcome his spelling difficulties (Reisman, 1991).

Although Witmer’s exploits helped shape clinical psychology, the big leap in the discipline was not until after the Second World War. Prior to this psychologists had developed army alpha and army beta, the performance scales used in assessing intelligence (Reisman, 1991).  In that period, psychologists were engaged as assessment specialists, because development of these performance scales had greatly helped better their psychological assessment skills (Reisman, 1991).  Although the American association of clinical psychologists (AACP) was formed in 1917, it was not until after the Second World War (WWII) when the enthusiasm for psychotherapy gained ground; making clinical psychologists appreciate treatment as a component of their professional role (Reisman, 1991). The AACP had however, by this time, been replaced by its successor-organizations (Reisman, 1991).

The enhanced role of clinical psychologists had been furthered by the outcomes of the WW II.  On evaluating soldiers returning from war, psychologists observed signs of psychological strain, which at the time was referred to as “shell-shock” (Culpin, 1952). Later this became synonymous with posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychologists attempted to treat such disorder since physicians were already occupied with the numerous physical injuries that affected soldiers involved in combat (Reisman, 1991).  After WW II, many veterans were trained as clinical psychologists (Reisman, 1991). In the following decades, especially the 1970s clinical psychology continued to grow with professionals (Reisman, 1991). Currently, clinical psychology adopted various cognitive and behavioral therapies in its practices (Levant, 2004).

Although potential of clinical psychology in providing solution to a variety of mental illness is great, its failure to play an enhanced role has been due to its ambivalence in emphasizing research and statistics in its practices (Bake, McFall & Shoham, 2009). Such can be deduced from three aspects noted of current practice of many clinical psychologists. First is the concentration on personal clinical experience at the expense of research evidence in providing services (Groopman, 2007 as cited in Bake, McFall & Shoham, 2009, p. 77); secondly, is the use of psychometric support that bears no verifiable statistics of efficacy and; thirdly, failure to use practices for which evidence of efficacy has been strongly suggested in research (Bake, McFall & Shoham, 2009).

The role of research and statistics in clinical counseling psychology would thus be two folds. First, is the development of new or better methods of treatment, and secondly, is the assessment of efficacy of existing and any potential therapeutic procedures (Bake, McFall & Shoham, 2009). Without research, clinical psychologists cannot develop better methods to solve the increasing range of mental illness affecting the population. Secondly, even where one practitioner achieves success with the use of a particular procedure, it would be difficult to recommend such a procedure for generalized treatment without research and subsequent statistics clearly indicating the procedure’s efficacy (Bake, McFall & Shoham, 2009). With research and documentation of such research, other factors apart from the procedure which could have resulted in a better outcome on the patient can be critiqued. Such would help delineate the procedures that are actually effective from those that are not, hence provide a basis for standardized practices that would be applicable to most patients at minimal modifications (Herbert & Gaudino, 2005)

 

With increased incidence of mental illness leading to heightened cost of health, the potential of clinical psychology to offer a credible solution has been enhanced. This paper evaluates the history and evolving nature of clinical psychology with a note on the role that research and statistics plays for its advancement. Antecedents of clinical psychology can be identified to Wilhelm Wundt who established the need for scientific research in psychology and later, Lightner Witner, who developed the first clinical psychology clinic. The rapid growth of the field though was after the WW II with soldiers returning from war providing numerous cases for application of the discipline. Currently, clinical psychology faces the challenge of its limited use of research and statistics to inform its practices. By, appreciating the role of research, the field can move towards evidence-based practices that offer promise of reducing the severity of mental illness within the population.

References

Baker, T. B., McFall, R. M. & Shoham, V. (2009). Current Status and future prospects of clinical psychology: Toward a scientifically principled approach to mental and behavioral health care. Psychol Sci Public Interest, 9(2), 67-103. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01036.x.

Clinical psychology (1968). British Medical Journal, 1(5588), 331-332.

Culpin, M. (1952). Clinical psychology and some forgotten episodes. British Medical Journal, 2(4791), 955-958.

Herbert, J. D. & Gaudino, B. A. (2005). Moving from empirically supported treatment lists to practice guidelines in psychotherapy: the role of the placebo concept. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(7), 893-908. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20133

Levant, R. F. (2004). The empirically validated treatments movement: a practitioner/educator perspective. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(2), 219-224. doi: 10.1093/clipsy/bph075

Reisman, J. M. (1991). A history of clinical psychology (2nd ed.). London: Taylor & Francis.

Wallin, J. E. W. (1913). Clinical psychology: what it is and what it is not. Scince, New Series, 37(963), 895-902.

 

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