Clinical Disorder Clinical Psychology and Categorical Mental Thesis

Pages: 12 (3626 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 25  ·  Level: Other  ·  Topic: Psychology

Clinical Disorder

Clinical Psychology and Categorical Mental Disorders

Clinical psychology is a field constructed on the intent to treat disorders and dysfunctions and to promote mental health and stability in its subject. Therefore, it is centered on the processes of diagnosis and therapy, with the various disorders to which individuals are subject falling under a set of classifications discussed in greater detail in the following account.

Before proceeding to this examination, the account provides a brief background on the philosophical and academic development of Clinical Psychology which should improve the insight here provided on its impetus and primary objectives. Clinical Psychology, apart from its counterparts in the scientific and cultural communities, draws its roots to a history which, while not created in a vacuum, is more a product of its own course than of the uniform history of experimental psychology. Rising from a desire to better understand those capacities and frailties of the human mind than simply what empirical or neurological science had to offer, Ellenberger (1970) describes the clinical path of American psychological academe as one formed upon the education of its precursors but decidedly self-defined in its psychoanalytic framework and in its philosophical predisposition toward understanding the nature of and treatment path for mental disorders.

Where the psychological approaches before it were built around a core scientific ideal that experimental laboratory measurement is the key to psychological advance, the chronologically similar outset of experimental psychotherapeutics, which would eventually render clinical psychology was developed out of a host of other sciences, including physiology, neurology, psychological research, philosophy, and social ethics.

But what distinguishes it from experimental psychology does so with an ideological gapping that is unbridgeable. As Ellenberger presents it, in order to truly understand the psychological state of a mental examination subject, one "must consider the cultural and social background of the patient." (Ellenberger, 15) and though clinical psychology may not have been explicitly a reaction to its laboratory-bound predecessors' narrow scope, its theories seemed innately designed to address those elements of the mental behavior over which satisfying academic explanation had not yet been levied. As Freud and his contemporaries regarded it, such exploration had already been manifested in the classics, lauded as such for their illumination of the human condition. In the years which preceded the infusion and predominance of the laboratory in the field, thinkers and social scientists had already taken note of the human imagination, a so-called possession of mind and other personality traits which, even centuries later, could not be done justice in explication on only quantifiable terms. The desire to pick up on this work sets clinical psychology uniquely on its own route, with the emergence of consideration for the seemingly unobservable parts of the mind.

Herein, "a new model of the human mind was evolved. It was based on the duality of conscious and unconscious psychism. Later, it was modified to the form of a cluster of subpersonalities underlying the conscious personality." (Ellenberger, 111) This departure from conventional thinking would set the course for popular psychology here and forward, though such ideas would be consistently rejected by the established controlling parties of academic psychology in America. That is, of course, until they came to be said controlling parties. But in Freud's consistent applicability, especially as would be evidenced by the explosion in applied psychology thereafter, there is proof, Ellenberger seems to argue, that the elasticity of human minds interacting, as in psychoanalysis, provides the needed level of pragmatic subjectivity in handling the diversified obstacles of the mental process.

Clinical psychology focuses on the ways in which this responded to philosophical convention in equal part to its basis in science. Thus, clinical psychology is not just correlated to the academic advances of the field, but also beholden to what may be described as worthy humanist interpretations of man in intellectual history, evolving as consideration of these interpretations evolved with sociological change. Ellenberger provides the example that "whereas, in the eighteenth century, the prevailing myth was that of the "noble savage," of the vigorous, primitive man living in his forest and fighting for his freedom, there was now an inverted myth of a "corrupt civilized man," weakened and sophisticated." (Ellenberger, 282) the reflection of society has played a hand in our abilities to define ourselves.

Though the future of clinical psychology would coincide with its commercial interests particularly with respect to the use of pharmaceutical treatment, its history is one very much founded in the above implied notion that the mind is not simply a part of the body but also a far more complex embodiment of an abstract entity that constitutes the psyche. Here, the unique stratification of impulses, its impossible to replicate individualities and its vulnerability to the conceits of its origin make the human mind a thing still beyond the empirical set of considerations which have sought to pigeonhole it. Thus, clinical psychology is useful because it distributes psychological maladies within the context of encompassing mental disorders. Under the terms of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), we are given a set of disorders under which many individual afflictions are categorized for evaluating in a clinical setting. Accoridingly, the DSM "is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States. It is intended to be applicable in a wide array of contexts and used by clinicians and researchers of many different orientations (e.g., biological, psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, family/systems)." (Psyweb, 1) Its dominance in the field helps to provide something of a streamlined set of practices for classification available to practitioners.

The primary purpose of the DSM is to provide practitioners with a reference point for evaluation of observable symptoms in patients. The provision of symptoms affiliated to specific disorders in the DSM makes it instrument of the utmost importance in attempting to narrow down conditions due for treatment. Accordingly, "for each disorder included in the DSM, a set of diagnostic criteria that indicate what symptoms must be present (and for how long) in order to qualify for a diagnosis (called inclusion criteria) as well as those symptoms that must not be present (called exclusion criteria) in order for an individual to qualify for a particular diagnosis." (Psyweb, 1)

Anxiety Disorders:

Anxiety Disorders are perhaps the most common of those disorders falling under the clinical umbrella. These can impact individuals with otherwise functional and healthy lives or can be debilitating to the extent of disrupting one's ability to work or socialize normally. The variance of possible forms for this disorder includes Panic Attacks, Social Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a wide variety of Phobias or irrational fears. According to Rowney et al., though anxiety can be a normal and natural response to certain external stimuli, it "can become a pathologic disorder when it is excessive and uncontrollable, requires no specific external stimulus, and manifests with a wide range of physical and affective symptoms as well as changes in behavior and cognition.' ( Rowney et al., 1)

An example of this is the Panic Disorder in which individuals may suffer from an unpredictable vulnerability to panic attacks. These are described as a loss of control, a shortness of breath, dizziness and in intense sense of indefinable fear. Indications are that there is a direct reciprocity between the experience of these symptoms and the emotional trauma affiliated therewith. Accordingly, the National Institute of Mental Health defines this as "fear of one's own unexplained physical symptoms is also a symptom of panic disorder. People having panic attacks sometimes believe they are having heart attacks, losing their minds, or on the verge of death. They can't predict when or where an attack will occur, and between episodes many worry intensely and dread the next attack." (NIMH2, 1) the purpose of clinical psychology is to attempt to trace this condition to a root in the unconsciousness that might be triggering the irrational or undue response to such stimuli.

In the case of some disorders however, where some event has clearly triggered a pathological emotional response in the subject, the clinical approach is devoted to treatment. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one such Anxiety Disorder, which is demonstrative of the manner in which specific personal experiences can create a psychological conflict in the subject. Here, a condition commonly associated with such experiences as those found in war, for example, is evidence of the need for a clinical approach which is best suited to exploring the experiential rather than physiological causes of the condition. Here, we can see that certain inhospitable conditions can be held responsible for the presence of the disorder. The experiences which are encountered by soldiers engaged in direct combat are perilous, chaotic and contrary to the rules and parameters which protect us in our daily lives. An absence of order and the intensely heightened threat of injury or fatality require soldiers to shed many of the assumptions and securities of civilian life as a means to survival. But for many who succeed in forging… [END OF PREVIEW]

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