Definitions of Clinical Psychology


Define Clinical Psychology

It's about diagnosing, explaining and treating mental illnesses. It seeks to define what makes behaviour abnormal, then to diagnose the problem so that it can be treated. Clinical psychologists take note of any symptoms their patient is suffering from and for how long. So that they can decide what disorder they are suffering from and give them appropriate treatment.

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Define the Statistical Definition of Abnormality

This definition states that behaviour that is statistically rare is abnormal. It uses the normal distribution curve where both extremes are deemes equally abnormal and the middle region is normal. Any measurable characteristic that falls more than two standard deviations away from the mean is classed as abnormal, so it must be possible to calculate the mean.

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Define the Social Norms Definition of Abnormality

Deviation from social norms behaviour is abnormal if perceived as different to that seen as acceptable within society. Norms are social rules that are not laws but customs that people in society abide by.

If the patient comes from a different culture than the doctor's he/she may not recognise the normal behaviour as normal.

What is seen as abnormal will vary between cultures as well as over time, as an individual should not be considered without the full background and context being taken into account

In one society there is likely to be different cultures and subcultures. Any behaviour that is seen as abnormal would tend to be seen that way in all cultures in the society. For example in the Western world hearing voices would be diagnosed as schizophrenia whilst in other parts of the world it is thought to be a spiritual link to God and is therefore desirable

What was considered the norm many years ago may have changed for example homosexuality used to be illegal but now it is more accepted

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Define Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that can affect how someone thinks, speaks and feels to such a degree that they may lose focus on reality. Schizophrenia can be characterised by positive and negative symptoms such as hallucinations and social withdrawal. There is no physical way of diagnosing SZ, but research is looking at the possibility of blood testing or eye tracking. Psychiatrists make a diagnosis of SZ using symptoms and features.

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Define Reliabilty

A procedure is said to be reliable when it consistently produces the same results or diagnosis. One way of seeing how reliable a diagnosis is, is by testing whether different clinicians agree on the same diagnosis for the same patient this is called inter-rater reliabilty. Another way of assessing reliability is to assess the same patients two or more times and see whether they consistently receive the same diagnosis this is called test-retest reliability.

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Define Validity

A diagnosis can be considered valid if: People who share the same symptoms are given the same diagnosis.The symptoms of the patient match those considered to be present for that disorder. A client diagnosed with SZ should have at least 2 symptoms continuously for at least 2 months or the diagnosis does not fit the necessary criteria so lacks validity.

A diagnosis can have 3 types of validity:

Etiological validity: A group of people diagnosed with the same disorder will have the same factors causing it e.g if SZ is caused  by excess dopamine then all SZ's should have excess dopamine

Concurrent Validity: Symptoms that are part of the disorder but are not part of the diagnosis should be found in those diagnosed e.g SZ's often have relationship problems, but this is not a characteristic for diagnosis

Predicative Validity: A diagnosis should lead to a prediction of future behaviours: recovery, development and effect of treatment. E.g if a drug that is effective for SZ, someone diagnosed should respond to the treatment

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Define Primary Data

Is data collected first hand from the source for example Milgram or from methods such as observations

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Define Secondary Data

Is data already gathered by someone else and is used for further research such as a content analysis, or a meta-analysis e.g Bachrach

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