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Clinical psychology dates back to the 19th century when early modern types of psychological treatment were established. Clearly, psychiatric hospitals existed, and people with severe psychological disorders were treated there. However, people often ignored many milder behavioral and educational disorders. The dawn of clinical psychology is associated with Lightner Witmer, who opened the first psychological clinic where patients with various educational and behavioral disorders were treated (Pomerantz, 2013). Notably, the practitioner decided to open the clinic after he successfully treated a speaking disorder in one of his patients. Major types of disorders addressed in the clinic (as well as in other clinics that opened later) were learning and behavioral disorders.
In its early days, clinical psychology focused on behaviors and was based on principles taken from animal learning (Brewin, 2013). Nonetheless, the field has always been characterized by flexibility, and it has evolved constantly. However, later practitioners started taking into account broader social contexts, and the field started evolving rapidly. It is necessary to note that World War II had a great impact on the development of clinical psychology. Soldiers who came back from the war had certain behavioral disorders, and practitioners started addressing these issues and helping soldiers to overcome their psychological traumas. It is important to add that in the 1970s, clinical psychology took a significant twist, and clinical practitioners developed various strategies based on broad social contexts. The field has been evolving for decades, and practitioners identify new issues and develop new strategies to address them. At present, clinical psychology addresses a wide range of issues, and practitioners work with individuals, couples, families, and various groups of people.
Research and Statistic
It is important to add that research and statistics play an important role in the development of clinical psychology. The turn to empirical data and reliance on facts and statistics occurred in the 1990s (Pomerantz, 2013). One of the major distinctive features of clinical psychologists is that they develop treatment strategies based on extensive research. Carr and McNulty (2014) stress that classification is pivotal for clinical psychology as it enables the field to expand in an orderly manner. Practitioners research numerous issues and evaluate the effectiveness of strategies that have been tried in specific surveys.
It is necessary to note that statistics are also seen as the necessary background for clinical psychologists when making decisions. Statistical data on this or that disorder and its treatment enable practitioners to choose the most effective treatment in every particular case. Clearly, each program developed to address this or that disorder enriches the scope of knowledge on the matter.
It is noteworthy that this precision is justified as clinical psychologists diagnose and assess patients’ behavioral patterns, consult, teach, supervise, research, and so on. These specialists need to rely on particular data and successful experience in similar cases as well as in various settings. Clinical psychologists are able to consider various issues and consult people on numerous problems as different cases have been described and considered previously.
Clearly, clinical psychology is rather different from other branches of psychology. For instance, it is possible to compare clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. One of the distinctive features of psychiatrists is that these professionals (unlike clinical psychologists) attend medical school. Psychiatrists have the license of a physician (Pomerantz, 2013). More so, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication. Pomerantz (2013) adds that clinical psychologists are acquiring wider responsibilities and, in some states, can also prescribe medication in some cases. Another important difference between the two fields is that psychiatrists focus on the biological aspect of the disorder. Thus, they view most psychological disorders as an abnormality of the brain. This affects the way disorders are treated. Hence, psychiatrists tend to prescribe medication to cure the brain. Of course, other types of treatment (for example, counseling) are also used, but medication is seen as central. When it comes to clinical psychologists, they focus on behavior and social contexts rather than on particular brain abnormalities. Of course, biological aspects are also taken into account, but these professionals rely on cognitive and emotional as well as behavioral aspects.
Clinical psychologists are also different from social workers in many ways. One of the most important distinctive features of social work is its emphasis on the environment and social aspect. Social workers counsel people and try to make them more integrated into the community and society on the whole. These specialists also tend to stress the exclusive role of the wrongs of society, such as racism, discrimination, and so on. Importantly, social workers focus on filed work and often address individuals as well as an organization on behalf of the client if it is apparent that the client will benefit from cooperation with the organization or individual. At that, social workers do not pay attention to empirical data (surveys, research, assessment, and so on). This is one of the most important differences between social work and clinical psychology, as the latter is based on empirical data.
Another field that is closely connected with clinical psychology in school psychology. School psychologists employ many methods utilizes by clinical psychologists as they carry out tests to identify educational or behavioral disorders (at different stages of students’ development), counsel students as well as educators and parents. School psychologists often develop programs aimed at meeting students’ educational needs. They help students better integrate into the community and find their professional paths. It is clear that social workers and clinical psychologists use many similar methods and approaches. However, it is possible to state that social workers operate in a narrower context as they focus on students’ educational and emotional needs, whereas clinical psychologists assist people of different ages and in different settings.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that clinical psychology is the branch of psychology that focuses on people’s behavior determined by various social contexts. Clinical psychologists work with individuals, couples, groups; and help people cope with their issues. Importantly, clinical psychologists focus on empirical data and pay a lot of attention to research, statistics, measurement, and so on. These specialists develop treatment strategies based on empirical data. It is also necessary to add that clinical psychologists pay special attention to social contexts rather than biological aspects. The field is rapidly evolving, and clinical psychologists expand the range of the methods, approaches as well as issues that can be solved.
Brewin, C.R. (2013). Cognitive foundations of clinical psychology. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Carr, A., & McNulty, M. (2014). The handbook of adult clinical psychology: An evidence based practice approach. New York, NY: Routledge.
Pomerantz, A.M. (2013). Clinical psychology: Science, practice, and culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.