Tag Archives: Journal of Humanistic Psychology

Psychologists Want an Alternative to the DSM

In another life (or a different timeline, if you prefer) I didn’t change paths and continued on to become a clinical psychologist. In that life (or timeline), I, and many other psychologists are using something totally different than the DSM and the psychologists in this timeline are jealous. Confused?

Recent research published sought to see if the attitudes of psychologists, with regard to the DSM, have changed at all. It turns out, they haven’t:

The results are no different from what was found three decades ago, namely, that a significant number of psychologists are unhappy with the DSM, but almost all of them use it.

So, why do we continue to update the DSM instead of scrapping it and making something better? Well, that’s probably a can of worms for a different post, but it seems telling that in 30 years that psychologists still aren’t happy with what is supposed to be a very important source book for the profession. More than that, as 30 years have spanned, it’s fair to say that even the next generation of psychologists aren’t warming to the DSM.

In reading this study, the most troubling sentence comes from near the end of the article [Emphasis Added]:

They appreciate its help in making diagnoses and supplying reimbursable diagnostic codes, but continue to have scientific, professional, economic, and ethical concerns about it.

That’s troubling, indeed. Scientific, professional, and ethical!

It seems to me that a profession whose bedrock is based in morality and ethics should be motivated to rectify this concern. If they were to change things, what would they change it to? [Emphasis Added]

Even though they may not see the categories in the DSM as merely problems in living, psychologists are interested in alternatives not rooted in the medical model common to the DSM and ICD. Psychologists might be prepared to further develop and use psychologically focused diagnostic alternatives if conditions encouraging them to do so were in place.

That sounds congruent. I remember my time in as a doctoral candidate and many of my colleagues at the time were far more interested in modes of analysis that didn’t subscribe to medical models. There are a number of reasons for this, but for this kind of a wholesale change to occur, I think there needs to be a push from the APA. I suspect that other psychologists would agree with that, but there’s also the possibility that there’s some sort of grassroots “uprising” that starts with individual psychologists. The one hitch with that possibility that I see is that many psychologists work on their own. That is, instead of working alongside their colleagues, they have their own office space and work by themselves. I think if psychologists had something resembling a “union” like there are in some other professions, it would be far easier for them to organize and create the kind of change they’re looking for.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for or suggesting that psychologists should form something like a union, I’m merely saying that if there were this kind of infrastructure in place, I believe it might be easier for there to be a change to the way psychologists diagnose.

ResearchBlogging.orgRaskin, J., & Gayle, M. (2015). DSM-5: Do Psychologists Really Want an Alternative? Journal of Humanistic Psychology DOI: 10.1177/0022167815577897

Why Humanistic Psychology is Still Relevant

The development of humanistic psychology began in the late 1950s and was ‘born‘ in the early 1960s. Given the time that humanistic psychology grew, there’s no doubt that it informed the civil rights movement. However, some say that humanistic psychology peaked in the 1970s. An article last year in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology argued that humanistic psychology is, in fact, more important in the 21st century than many had previously thought.

DeRobertis enumerates the ways in which, “numerous contemporary transformations in the field are directly attributable to humanistic currents of thought within psychology.” Among those ways:

  • Qualitative research subgroup within the APA
  • Humanistic neuroscience
  • Hermeneutic approach to cognition
  • Social constructivist movement in the psychology of education
  • Student enthusiasm in the classroom
  • Ecological perspectives in perception
  • Existential-phenomenological thought in developmental psychology
  • Positive psychology
  • Discussion of the feasibility of reconceptualizing psychological suffering
  • Shift to holistic and relational processes in psychotherapy
  • Emotion-focused therapy
  • Peace psychology

The author also argued that humanistic psychology is making waves in other areas of psychology, but that aren’t directly attributable to humanistic psychologists. Among those ways:

  • Changes in emotion and intelligence research
  • Shift away from ‘testing the null’ to ‘building a model’

Towards the end of the article, DeRobertis pointed out that “the second postulate of humanistic psychology, the fact that human beings have their being in a context, has seen the most widespread application across academic areas.” While I’d love to see the four other postulates have widespread application in addition to the above-mentioned postulate, it’s great that the one about context is proliferating in influence. Context is so important — I’ve written about it before, even in the context of psychological research.

Humanistic psychology certainly has applications outside of psychology, but it’s important for psychology writ large to take humanistic psychology seriously or, at a minimum, take its findings seriously. The positive effects that humanistic psychology has had on psychology and continues to have on psychology, are growing. For instance, I’d be interested to see a collaboration between humanistic psychology and international relations. Of course, the obvious place for humanistic psychology in international relations would be in the context of nation states negotiating, but what about in the context of how a nation state views itself and its citizens? That is, do world leaders look at their countries from a behavioral perspective or do world leaders look at their countries from an humanistic perspective? And if world leaders did look at themselves from a humanistic perspective, would that make them less likely to violate the sovereignty of another nation or start a war?

ResearchBlogging.orgDeRobertis, E. M. (2013). Humanistic Psychology: Alive in the 21st Century? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53 (4), 419-437 DOI: 10.1177/0022167812473369