Types of Therapies: Theoretical Orientations and Practices of Therapists & Testing Methods

Author: HOPE Ministry at Eagles View Church reviewed on March 26, 2019

Types of Therapies: Theoretical Orientations and Practices of Therapists

This is one of the oldest theories of psychology in which patients are viewed within a model of illness or “what is lacking.” Individuals are seen as being made up from a “dynamic” that begins in early childhood and progresses throughout life. This psychodynamic way of thinking is generally a watered-down offshoot of the more conservative and rigid psychoanalytic school of thought. Psychoanalysis emphasizes that all adult problems’ roots can be traced back to one’s childhood. Few therapists can afford to practice strict psychoanalysis anymore and it is typically found nowadays only in the hands of psychiatrists, who have spent extraordinary amounts of personal time being analyzed themselves and attending a psychoanalytic institute. When people think of a “shrink,” they probably imagine this type of therapy.

It is not really fair to lump these two together like this. Cognitive-behavioral theory emphasizes the cognitions or thoughts a person has as an explanation as to how people develop and how they sometimes get a mental disorder. Many types of theories in psychology could fit under this broad category, and it would be difficult to do them all justice. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in a nutshell, seeks to change a person’s irrational or faulty thinking and behaviors by educating the person and reinforcing positive experiences that will lead to fundamental changes in the way that person copes.

This theory views human beings as basically good and positively, with the freedom to choose all of their actions and behaviors in their lives. What motivates behavior is “self-actualization,” of the desire to always seek out to become something more of oneself in the future. Because an individual can be conscious of his or her own existence under this theory, that person is also fully responsible for the choices they make to further (or diminish) that existence. Responsibility is a key ingredient of this theory, for all humans are responsible for the choices they make in their lives, with regards to their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

There are many forms of eclecticism but it is not really important to know or understand the differences between them all. It is a pragmatic approach to therapy, meshing all approaches together to fit the individualistic human being that sits before them for the first time with their particular problem.
Eclectics use techniques from all schools of therapy. Therapists may have a favorite theory or therapeutic technique that they tend to use more often or fall back on, but they are willing and often use all that are available to them. After all, the key here is to help the patient as quickly and as effectively as possible. Not to pigeonhole them into some set way of looking at all people, whether it works for them or not.
Types of Psychological Testing

The Clinical Interview
The clinical interview is a core component of any psychological testing. Some people know the clinical interview as an “intake interview”, “admission interview” or “diagnostic interview” (although technically these are often very different things).

Clinical interviews typically last from 1 to 2 hours in length, and occur most often in a clinician’s office. Many types of mental health professionals can conduct a clinical interview — psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, amongst others. The clinical interview is an opportunity for the professional to gather important background and family data about the person. Think of it as an information-gathering session for the professional’s benefit (but ultimately for your benefit).

Assessment of Intellectual Functioning (IQ)
Your IQ — intellectual quotient — is a theoretical construct of a measure of general intelligence. It’s important to note that IQ tests do not measure actual intelligence — they measure what we believe might be important components of intelligence. There are two primary measures used to test a person’s intellectual functions — intelligence tests and neuropsychological assessment. Intelligence tests are the more common type administered and include the Stanford-Binet and the Wechsler scales.

Neuropsychological assessment — which can take up to 2 days to administer — is a far more extensive form of assessment. It is focused not just on testing for intelligence, but also on determining all of the cognitive strengths and deficits of the person.

Neuropsychological assessment is most usually done with people who have suffered some sort of brain damage, dysfunction or some kind of organic brain problem, just as having a brain hemorrhage.

Personality Assessment
Personality assessment is designed to help a professional better understand an individual’s personality. Personality is a complex combination of factors that has been developed over a person’s entire childhood and young adulthood. There are genetic, environmental and social components to personality — our personalities are not shaped by one single influence.

Therefore, tests that measure personality take in to account this complexity and rich texture. There are two primary types of personality tests — objective, by far the most commonly used today, and projective. Objective tests include things like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), the 16PF, and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III). Projective tests include the Rorschach Inkblot Test, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and the Draw-a-Person test.

Behavioral Assessment
Behavioral assessment is the process of observing or measuring a person’s actual behavior to try and better understand the behavior and the thoughts behind it, and determine possible reinforcing components or triggers for the behavior. Through the process of behavioral assessment, a person — and/or a professional — can track behaviors and help change them.

After a clinical interview, the core of behavioral assessment is naturalistic observation — that is, observing the person in a natural setting and taking notes (much like an anthropologist). This can be done at home (think “Super Nanny” when Nanny spends the first day simply observing the current family patterns of behavior), at school, at work, or in a hospital or inpatient setting. Target negative and positive behaviors are observed, as well as their respective reinforcements. Then the therapist has a good idea of what needs to change in order to obtain new, healthier behaviors.


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