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What Is Clinical Psychology ?

Mar 29, 2008
Approximately 91% of those employed in the clinical psychology field engage in psychological assessments aimed at diagnosis and treatment. Tests may include intelligence/achievement tests like IQ tests or WISC-IV tests, which measure knowledge, verbal skills, memory, reasoning, attention span and spatial perception.

Personality tests try to categorize behavioral and logical patterns. The MMPI, Rorschach Inkblot test or the Myers-Briggs test all try to reveal the psychological dynamics. Furthermore, neuropsychological tests examine structures and brain pathways in a more "scientific" manner. Clinical observation includes studying a control group and a variable group for differences in behavior, mood, perception, understanding, memory, communication and affect.

There are four main perspectives of clinical psychology: psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioral and systems/family therapy. First, psychodynamic psychotherapy developed out of the works of Sigmund Freud and sought to make the unconscious desires come to the surface, rather than remain suppressed. Popular interventions include free association and the examination of transference and defenses. The history of mental illness is examined through the exploration of childhood memories.

The humanistic perspective of psychology was based around the work of Carol Rogers, Victor Frankl and Rollo May. Rogers argued that people needed congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathetic understanding as mental health treatment. The humanist perspective seeks to help the person towards self-actualization and connecting with their natural born potential.

The cognitive behavioral perspective looks at the interaction between how we think, feel and act. Psychology experts believe that we interpret the world through schemas (set patterns of thinking and categorizing information) that sometimes results in behavioral problems. To uncover irrational thinking, professionals try desensitization, Socratic questioning, relational dialectics therapy or note taking.

In systems or family therapy, psychology therapists focus on the interaction of the family and their interpersonal dynamics. Interventions include a spouse, parent, sibling or close friend. While some of the intervention involves a group discussion, homework assignments are often given to help patients keep working, thinking and assessing outside of their therapy sessions.

There are many areas of specialization within clinical psychology, like: health, neuropsychology (focus: the brain), geropsychology (focus: the elderly), counseling and social behavior therapy. Neuropsychologists study things like the medical symptoms behind schizophrenia, dementias or other mental disorders. No matter what form of psychology is focused upon, the main intent is to promote mental health, design new programs and help families deal with mental illness.

There has been some criticism in recent years that clinical psychology is "too subjective" and difficult to prove with empirical evidence. A major problem is that health insurance companies refuse to cover therapy costs, which limits many lower income individual's mental health treatment options.

Since clinical psychologists receive less schooling than psychiatrists, many medical doctors downplay the importance of therapy. However, one need only pick up a journal of psychiatry to see that psychotherapy is still a valid profession and one that can supplement medication for unbelievable results.
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