Issues and Debates and Clinical Psychology

Ethical issues in research (animal and human);

  • There are many clinical research studies that present ethical issues not least the many animals studies so every time you hit an animal studies that you are using in evaluation, remember you can make ethical point relating to this and bring in everything you learnt in my paper 3 lesson on animals ethics, e.g. Carlsson’s work mentions a variety of mouse and rat research.
  • Rosenhan’s work has a multiplicity of issues that we spent time discussing in class.
  • Williams is strong with regard to the use of the waiting list control group as they did get therapy they just had to wait for it and this presents some issues.
  • There issues with the use of placebo effects and potentially with-holding the treatment that you expect to work form a group of people but of course we have discussed cost-benefit analysis and the placebo studies sheet gives lots of points relating to the ethics in terms of the people in the placebo group.
  • We discussed at length the pros and cons of using medication versus other forms of treatment and this also counts as ethical issues in clinical research, i.e. the chemical straitjacket argument but also remember that drugs have allowed people to live in their communities that might otherwise have been institutionalized.

Practical issues in the design and implementation of research: 

  • In clinical you had to look at meta-analysis, longitudinal, cross-sectional and cross cultural studies, case studies and interviews and you will need to consider the practical issues linked to each of these research methods; this is essentially really just about understanding how each method works and the strengths and limitations with each method, limitations that need to be overcome
  • think about the practical issues presented in Rosenhan, Carlsson and Williams

Reductionism in the explanation of behaviour

  • Biological models of depression and schizophrenia prevail as it is fairly easy to alter levels of various neurochemicals using drugs and to explore localisation of brain function through lesioning and ablation for example in animals;
  • these techniques have allowed us to understand how abnormalities of the nervous system are linked to abnormalities of behaviour;
  • however this has led to a reductionism in clinical psychology in the understanding of disorders and also in their treatment;
  • it is not so easy to explore the impact of long term exposure to poverty, neglect or discrimination for example in the laboratory or through the use of animals models and this means a more holistic view of how social, cultural and cognitive factors affect biology has been somewhat over-looked.
  • This said, the work of Miller (1977) who replicated Seligman’s dogs has some very interesting implications which are more holistic than either a simple biological or behaviourist approach could have provided.
  • Laing argues that studying schizophrenia at the chemical level entirely misses the point and says it should only be studied at the level of experience of the individual; he says that treatment should also target this level of understanding; what are your thought on this suggestion? What do you know about the effectiveness of drug treatments for example?

Comparisons of ways of explaining behaviour using different themes: 

In clinical we looked at explaining schizophrenia and depression using ideas from biological psychology (neurotransmission and the role of genes) and cognitive psychology (information-processing, selection , organisation and inference, top down processing, schema theory (self schema -Beck), we also looked at how themes from social psychology can impact mental disorders such as poverty, prejudice and discrimination, an unfulfilled desire to  belong/social isolation, also being empowered versus powerless links to mental health issues and this could be linked to agentic state potentially and the long term effects of moral strain. Finally you should be able to think about how learning theory s linked tp mental disorders, in Paper 1 you looked at how classical and operant conditioning and social learning theory all may be in part responsible for the acquisition and maintenance eof phobias and it should be straight forward to see how these three theories may give rise to other mental health symptoms. We have looked for example at how social learning theory may explain why mental health disorders are more common in first degree relatives as an alternative to the genetic explanation.

Psychology as a science

Here you will need to think about where of the continuum many clinical studies sit, some are more scientific than others , e.g. animal experiment which allow for high levels of control. Some studies compare groups of people e.g. people with and without a specific diagnosis and then look at certain things such as levels of a specific neurotransmitters or how they react to certain drugs , the issue here is the IV is not manipulated by the researcher and they are as such quasi experiment and thus lacking in internal validity. You need to carefully consider what you know about the research methods that have been used in each of the studies that we have discussed and how they link to the debate around psychology as a science.

Cultural and gender issues in psychological research: 

We have looked at cross cultural studies as a research method in this topic and done a good deal of work considering whether schizophrenia is manifested in the same way around the world. This demonstrates that much of the research which only uses Western Pps may not helpfully represent the experiences of many people. Schizophrenia and depression both demonstrate differences in the prevalence for males and females and cultural differences and this alone demonstrate that culture and gender should not be ignored in research studies (beta-bias).

The role of both nature and nurture in psychology:

This is a major topic in clinical and your examples for Paper 3 will doubtless be drawn in part from what you know about schizophrenia; neurotransmisison/genes versus EBH.

An understanding of how psychological understanding has developed over time: The development of our understanding of schizophrenia is a classic example with our three differing versions of the dopamine hypothesis and the more recent awareness of the role of serotonin and glutamate.

Epigenetics has knocked the nature/nurture debates into a cocked hat so to speak and studies such as “lick your rats” show how experiences within the environment can programme the brain to respond differently in the future through modification of our DNA.

The use of psychology in social control:

The use of drugs as chemical straitjackets and the work of Robert Laing and Rosenhan are excellent examples for this topic area. The clips we watched from the Birth of Modern Psychology feed in well to this debate, the idea of taking anti depressants for example in order to get everyone to fit into one idealised model of what being human should “look like” in order to get everyone out into the workplace.

The use of psychological knowledge in society: 

All of the treatments and therapies that we have looked at fit in with this debate, for better of for worses. Gene therapy and gene counselling – covered this when we were doing schizophrenia

Issues related to socially-sensitive research:

Research that has resulted in one gender/culture appearing more prone to a specific disorder or manifestation of a disorder could be argued to have led to perpetuating the stereotype that this group are more prone to this disorder resulting in wrongful diagnosis and treatment simply based on social group, e.g. the over diagnosis of schizophrenia in black people and over-diagnosis of depression in women.