Pragmatic case studies as a source of unity in applied psychology. (6/19)

Article 6 of 19 in Eric Charles’ Special Issue of Review of General Psychology
Author, Daniel Fishman and Stanley Messer; in Review of General Psychology, 2013, 17(2), p. 156-161.

A very interesting perspective put forward here, and from an angle that I have little insight into but am fascinated by.

To exemplify that pluralism benefits all involved perspectives, four different therapeutic processes/techniques are discussed. It is clear that they have benefits and drawbacks and that they complement each other and are appropriate situationally. A parallel can be drawn here to the different philosophical backdrops used in psychology; social constructionism is an excellent diplomat in that it takes into consideration all opinions, critical realism is humble in its acknowledgement that we may not be perceiving reality for what it is and so on, and so forth. It thus forms valuable insight into the perspective from applied psychology.

“Thus, as mentioned above, treating theories as complementary conceptual tools, rather than as competitors for a single truth, can enhance the effectiveness of applied psychological interventions, like psychotherapy.” (p. 158).  This is a neat idea for the unification of applied psychology. I would be very interested to read about how it would relate to basic psychology. Simply multiple-theory-based perspectives? The danger I think is that it might be more clear cut in applied psychology.

“It emerges from a search for a third way out of psychology’s present “culture wars” between modern/positivist and postmodern/constructivist visions of psychology. These culture wars undermine unity in applied psychology and draw resources away from practical problem-solving (i.e. , directed toward today’s pressing psychological and social issues)” (p. 158). Well this certainly applies to basic psychology also, considering for example quantitative and qualitative psychology (an example of this can actually be found in the previous article).

It is proposed that “the ultimate purpose of applied psychological knowledge is to improve the condition of actual clients within the complexities of their reality” (p. 159) and that case studies in applied psychology should form a large database and knowledge be built up inductively. I can’t help but think here that in medical science this works great, how would it fare in a discipline with few agreed upon tenets? Also, how does this suggestion apply to less clearly practically applied psychological areas? Those interested in the most basic theoretical work in psychology can only by several steps come down to a practical level and if focus is pragmatist, will they be able to pursue their interest? It is however a fantastic idea and I hope this last concern could be adressed.

The only other issue I can think of is that I believe we still need a shared ontological basis, otherwise the keywords in the database will confuse when one concept has several definitions. How could this be controlled for? Agreed upon?

“The long journey to unity in applied psychology (and perhaps in basic psychology also) starts with a single, individual case.” (p. 160) I can understand that this most definitely could work in applied psychology, it mimics the medical science recipe in part. Can we have this in basic psychology? Single cases count for little because of the types of questions asked, methodology used and statistics applied -how would basic psychology have to change?