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Analysis of Critical Psychology Theories


One of the most important bodies of knowledge is psychology. It is through psychology that so many disorders have been dealt with. The disorders referred to here are disorders to do with the state of the mind as well as the environment affecting the well being of the mind of the individual. An example of a disorder that psychologists treat is referred to as sexual compulsive behavior. Many people would still be in problems were it not for psychology. Through psychology, other bodies of knowledge have benefited.

As any body of knowledge, psychology has grown to have branches within it and one of them which are relevant in this research paper is critical psychology. This research paper is going to deal with the question; Is critical Psychology essential to client’s rights in Mainstream Psychology? This research is going to argue that Critical Psychology is essential to client’s rights in Mainstream Psychology.

The research paper is going to look at psychology and give an overview of psychology Then move on to critical psychology where it will give a detailed explanation of what critical psychology is all about by looking at how it came to existence and what it is all about then finally relate it to mainstream psychology so as to show how relevant it is in psychology. Critical psychology is a branch of psychology that was developed with the aim of criticizing the mainstream psychology. It also has a goal or a purpose which is to try and put into practice the knowledge that psychology has accumulated into practice and at the same time learning something new without being rigidly constrained within the borders of psychology. Psychology knowledge is used in ways that are progressive under critical psychology. The main focus of critical psychology is the use of social change in its bid to criticize mainstream psychology but also as a tool to treat as well as prevent psychopathology.

Many criticism bullets have been shot at mainstream psychology. The most common highlights the manner in which mainstream psychology does not put into consideration or ignores deliberately the way in which the differences in power between the classes as well as the groups of society can greatly have an impact on the well-being of the person in terms of the mind and the physical bodies of either individuals or groups of people. This is very relevant material. A body of knowledge that is not constantly criticized is a body of knowledge that tends not to grow over time. It is just like a life that is never criticized and never examined. Before criticizing, there is examination. When something is examined then that means there loopholes within the existence of something are looked into and the relevance of the thing in today’s world. A human being will want to be current with the fast growing world and he or she is always constantly looking at ways in which he or she can improve him or herself. A human being is always updating him or herself to be current with the world and the changing times. This may explain the reason people do not dress in the olden day fashion styles but embrace what the fashion brings. An employee will take a course in something so as t upgrade him or herself in the field of work a person is. The human beings who listen to criticisms and work on them well always improve themselves and become better people in society but those who done never grow much.

It is clear that criticism is a very aspect of growth in today’s world. Businesses pay a lot of money in order to be criticized! They do this by asking their customers how their company has served them. They probe consumers with a wide range of questions in a bid to get the worst out of people about the company’s product or products. This can be done with the online focus groups that are being used as marketing tools at the end of the day because the product that will emerge will be based on the improvements that the customers said they will want to see. This is the same thing with mainstream psychology. Given the nature of mainstream psychology then it would make sense for there to be a body that looks into psychology as a body of knowledge to identify the things that can be done better and the factors that have to be considered when treating psychopathology. Mainstream psychology has not mentioned the impact that the various social groups and differences we have in society can have on an individual. Say for example that in a neighborhood, there are those that are doing really well and those that are not doing so well in terms of the financial stability. Most of the times rather than not, the people who are doing very well will come together and form some kind of social group and within this social group, they will have their own way of thinking then in the other group where people are not doing so well, there will be a way of thinking. With time these two groups will always compare themselves. This may explain why some rich people with no happiness and no people to love in their lives envy the genuineness of the love of people in the poor settings and the genuineness of their love for each other. This has an impact on the mental well being as well as the physical well being of a person. One may start to limit him or herself and decide that some things are a certain group of people and some are for a different group of people. There are many people who are a living proof of such influences and have either become very poor as a result or very rich as a result.

It is therefore very clear and important on the role critical psychology plays in the application of mainstream psychology. It acts as an update of mainstream psychology as well as a tool to keep mainstream psychology on its toes. It also brings psychology to life as it ensures that it is practical in its approach during the treatment of psychopathology. This is a very important aspect of critical psychology. This is the main reason as to why this research paper is going to look at the relevance of critical psychology in the role of mainstream psychology. Mainstream psychology has to be very grateful to critical psychology as critical psychology gives mainstream psychology life.

Overview of Psychology

The study of psychology started when the world started to civilize. During this time, human beings got to try and explain the reasons behind almost everything they found into existence. Te civilizations of Egypt, Persia, China, India as well as Greece were the first to try and study the humans as well as try to explain why some humans behaved in a certain way and others behaved in another. The ancient Muslim physicians and psychologists introduced the experimental and clinical approach that psychology has today. They even went ahead to build hospitals to cater for people with psychological problems. More steps were made when the French physiologist who went by the name Pierre Cabanis added the biological aspect of psychology in the year 1802. He had done expensive biology studies and based on the knowledge he had acquired in biology, he explained the human mind from the same perspective. He asserted that the souls as well as sensibility characterize the nervous system.

(Levin & Troiden, 1988) Psychology had not become a field of study until the German physician whose name was Wilhelm Wundt built the first ever laboratory for the sole purpose of the study of psychology at an institution of higher learning referred to as the Leipzig University. Wundt became known as the “father of psychology” because of this brave move. It is no wonder that on the very same year that the laboratory was built which was the year 1879, the year was labeled the date psychology was born. An American who was a psychologist as well as a philosopher wrote a book in 1890 which laid the solid foundation son which psychology is built for many scholars of psychology. Hermann Ebbinghaus is also a very crucial contributor to the psychology bode of knowledge that did a lot of research and experimental studies on the memory compartment of the mind. A Russian who was a guru in psychology also contributed to the knowledge of psychology as we know it today. His name is Ivan Pavlov. He came up with a process human beings use to learn according to him and is referred to as the classical conditioning. In the mid 20th century, most of the work done by the psychology pioneers mentioned is referred to as experimental psychology as most of this work was concerned with the information that was collected from various sectors and subjects along with the processing of the same information. The information gathered during this time is a subset of cognitive science. This period is seen as a period that brought a revolution because the development made by the various pioneers of psychology answered as well as reacted to the different kinds of ways of thinking that were in existence and at that time, there were two major schools of thought; behaviorism and psychodynamics (Lopez, Schmidt & Blanco, 2007).

(Syed, 2002) Psychoanalysis is a psychotherapy that was developed by Sigmund Freud who was an Australian physician. His psychology was based on the methods of interpreting of the mind, the observations of patients with mental problems or problems that were related to mental problems and introspection. He concentrated on resolving of the unconscious conflict, psychopathology as well as the mental distress of the human being. The theories that were coined by Freud were popular because they addressed issues of sexuality, the unconscious mind and also repression. The society saw the discussion of the problems Freud tried to tackle as a taboo. He managed to engage society in such discussions and proved to them that such issues could be discussed openly. It helps to deal with issues when conversations about the issues are held then the way forward formulated. Psychoanalysis was criticized and seen not to be efficient enough as it wasn’t empirical and had not proven to withstand experimental tests.

John B. Watson founded behaviorism. This was inclined towards determinism as well as positivism. Behaviorism was based on the premise that the use of animals to experiment could give a more in-depth understanding of psychosocial behavior such as analysis that is psychonamic in nature. The behaviorists believed the scientific research methods would result in pursuing of the necessary weapons needed to control the problems life presents rather than searching for truths which are seen to be timeless. Behaviorists maintained that much of the components of the human mind are not open to the scrutiny of science and that scientific psychology should rely on the behavior observed. This led to behaviorist analyzing the behavior of humans and relating the behavior with the environment in which the human being exists or interacts with. The behaviorism model of psychology has been challenged and its fall in part paved the way for more models to come into existence (Syed, 2002).

(Khaleefa, 1999)In reaction to psychoanalysis and behaviorism, humanism and existentialism emerged in the mid 20th century. Here the whole person was analyzed and not just some parts of the person. Humanism focused on practical human issues such as aloneness, meaning, self-identity, freedom as well as death. Emphasis was not on pathology but on determinism rejection, the positive growth concern as well as subjective meaning. Abraham Maslow an American psychologist played a major role in the development of humanism. There was the formulation of the hierarchy of human needs, client-centered therapy and Gesalt therapy. Existentialism focuses on the human nature as being neutral. It also focused on anxiety and positively assessed it. Existentialism argued that the human themes such as freewill, death and meaning are shaped by existing myths as well as narrative patterns. The human themes are allowed as authentic by the human freewill.

(Levin & Troiden, 1988) The cognitive revolution gave birth to cognitivism as a strain of thought. Naomi Chomsky is responsible for this. Cognitivism does not support the idea that research and analysis ignoring the innate child contribution to human behavior. Cognitivism had proven to have a practical approach as it assisted in the understanding of weapons operations during the World War II. By the end of the 20th century, cognitivism had taken the psychology world and other related subjects by storm. New concepts to replace the ones that were being used in behaviorism and psychoanalytic strains of thinking were formulated such a subliminal processing and implicit memory. Cognitive psychology did not throw all the work that was done by behaviorists and psychoanalysts but it took the better of the two worlds, made it make sense and incorporated it into cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology comprised of various subfield that deal with psychology such as neuroscience, philosophy of the mind as well as computer science.

One cannot strictly follow one school of thought and claim to completely understand the human mind. All schools of thought are very crucial in the understanding of the human mind. Modern psychology has come up with a school of thought that integrates all the other existent schools of thought; the biopsychosocial approach. This is so as to make it clear that any human mental process or behavior is governed by many interrelated biological, psychological as well as other social factors (Syed, 2002).

Psychology is a very wide field and so much is yet to be learnt in the psychology field. There exists several subfield of psychology. In other words, we can easily come up with a long list of the psychology topics as well as the disciplines that psychology encompasses. Abnormal psychology as the name suggests involves the study of behavior that deviates from normal behavior. Biological psychology is the study that involves a combination of the biological processes in relation to the state of the mind. Biological psychology is related to cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology as well as physiology. Clinical psychology is a subfield of psychology that deals with the application of psychology knowledge with the aim of solving problems to do with distress, personal development as well as the general well being of humans.

Other subfields of psychology include; counseling psychology, cognitive psychology, critical psychology, comparative psychology, forensic psychology, educational psychology, development psychology, evolutionary psychology, legal psychology, global psychology, industrial psychology, health psychology, quantitative psychology, occupational health psychology, personality psychology, school psychology as well as social psychology (Miller, 1983)

When professions in the psychology field research, they draw knowledge from other bodies of knowledge so as to understand the psychology phenomena. They can do this by abduction, deduction or induction. In any psychological research project, there is no reliance on only one type of inference but all of them help when used together. There are psychologists that do nothing but research on psychology. They play a very important role in adding to the existing knowledge that psychology has so far accumulated. These researchers make use of controlled experiments, animal studies, quantitative and qualitative research, qualitative and descriptive research methods, survey questionnaires, observations in natural settings, computational modeling, longitudinal studies, animal studies and lastly, neuropsychological methods (Steffens, 2006).

Psychology has been criticized to be a “fuzzy” science. The main reason is because there is no pre-paradigm being that we can base psychology on. Some of the interests in psychology such as well being, thinking, personality, emotion and many more cannot be measured and inferential statistics applied to it. The empirical aspect is not complete as some things cannot be assigned a number value. The testing of hypothesis is normally not up to standard as most psychologists are not adequately train to be able to analyze data. The criticism sometimes comes from one psychologist to another especially when one is research oriented and the other is clinical oriented. One side may argue that the clinical practices are not backed by empirical evidence and the other side may argue that experiments are done in controlled environments which are not the same as the real world situations. There is also concern that the scientific theories of psychology are miles apart from the actual application of psychology. It is more like going to school to study something then not applying the same thing in the profession one studied for.

Critical Psychology

By the fact that the word critical psychology has the word psychology at the very end than this means that it is a branch of psychology. Just the same way you would have people that bear the last name in a family setting, this would tell you that the two children belong to the same father. The word critical is used as it in itself is critical as it tries to bring out the aspects that mainstream psychology has continually ignored or not considered. Its main aim is to criticize mainstream psychology and this was the premise on which this branch called critical psychology came into existence. It points out other factors that may also explain the reason as to why some people think the way they think as well as make us understand the reason as to why some people are not mentally well and why some people are not physically well. Even before getting into the details of critical psychology, it is already clear that the role of critical psychology in mainstream psychology is very important. The fact that critical psychology provides some kind of checks and balances in the psychology body of knowledge is a very big reason for one to argue that for sure critical psychology plays a major role in mainstream psychology because it acts as a push to mainstream psychology for it to grow and for it to incorporate some of the things that have been hidden from it or may have not been in existence when the body of knowledge was established meaning critical psychology gives life to mainstream psychology.

Freie Universitat Berlin is the institution in which critical psychology was started in the 1970s. It is largely based on the existing knowledge that psychology as a whole had accumulated by then but it also at the same time came up with its own theories and explanations as it sees the world at one particular moment. By the beginning of May 2007, there were very few words that had been translated into English. The main root of German Critical Psychology is the post-war babyboomers’ student revolt which happened during the late sixties. The main spark of the student revolt was the criticism of the political economy by Marx. Berlin was the best spot for the student revolt as it was a free city which was circumference by East Germany. East Germany was socialist. This led to the sociological foundations upon which critical psychology is built to be Marxist. They have not gotten a listening ear from the many figures found in Critical Psychology.

Klaus Holzkamp is a very important author in this field as he wrote the book Grundlegung der Psychologie. If the title of the book was to be translated in English then it would read Foundations of Psychology. This book is very sophisticated in the Critical Psychology field. Klaus Holzkamp might just be the man to be stamped the founder of Critical Psychology as far as the theories are concerned. Klaus had already two books which talked majorly about the theory of science as well as the sensory perception. He felt that the book on the foundations of psychology gave psychologists a reason to research as the book explains the solid paradigm upon which psychological research can be done. The book views psychology as a scientific discipline that is pre-paradigmatic.

Aleksey Leontyev provides a unique approach to historical psychology as well as activity theory. According to him, the actions of human beings are as a result of the evolution of culture as well as the biological evolution. Leontyev drew from Marx’s work where culture and its concepts have been materialized. He emphasized that the cognition of an individual is a subset of social action and social action is mediated by tools which are man-made such as cultural artifacts, social action is also mediated by language as well as systems and symbols that are made by man. Leontyev viewed this as something that provides a clear distinction between human cognition and human culture. Holzcamp in his attempt to give a comprehensive as well as integrated set of categories that were researched by Aleksey Leontyev, he did come up with this sophisticated book. The book was based on the research that Aleksey Leontyev had done as explained. One other theory we see Holzcamp using in his book in the field of Critical Psychology is one that was developed by Lucien Steve; theory of personality. The concept here is of “social activity matrices”. The matrices are seen as the structure of mediation between individual reproduction as well as social reproduction.

With the various theories Klaus Holzkamp is seen to use, he does not forget the works that were done at the institution in which Critical Psychology was born; Free University of Berlin. The works that were done at Free University of Berlin was done by critical psychologists and their works was greatly influenced by Mark, Steve and Leontyev. The materials he used included books that were written on sensory perception, animal behavior or ethology, cognition and motivation. Ideas from Freud’s psychoanalysis which is a form of play therapy used to treat disorders and he also incorporated ideas from Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology as he explained his approach.

Holzcamp did a lot of comparative as well as historical analysis of perception, the human reproductive action as well as cognition. The core finding that he identified the symbolic meaning whether constructed culturally or historically to be structures that are conceptual and specifically useful to be structures that the human being will create in relationships that are close so as to make culture material. They also create the structures in close relationship in a culture that is material within the context of social reproduction that have been formed specifically in history. With this in mind, Klaus Holzkamp had a problem with behaviorism which he referred to as stimulus-response psychology or in short, S-R psychology. He looked at the analysis of the linguistics and he also showed how behaviorism created the illusion that is had “scientific objectivity” but at the same time behaviorism was not relevant in its understanding of human actions that are culturally situated and intentional at the same time. Klaus Holzkamp came up with his own approach that he drew a lot of ideas from a man that goes by the name Kurt Lewin and this he does in Chapter nine of his book titled Foundations of Psychology. This approach was to objectivity as well as generalization. Before Klaus Holzkamp died in the year 1995, he wrote on learning. His work was out in 1993 and he looked at learning from the object side and not the learner. Holzkamp was out to reinterpret the theories that were developed by psychology that was conventional. This means that he looked at the theories from the view of a critical psychologist and the paradigms of critical psychology. The useful insights that were found in conventional psychology were integrated into critical psychology but at the same time picking out and criticizing their implications that were limiting. In S-R psychology, the intentional action and the subject were eliminated. In cognitive psychology, the intentional action as well as the subject was taken into account. In the first part of the book, Holzkamp looks into the theories that were there in conventional psychology. The theories he focuses on most are those of learning. He then reinterprets the theories from a critical psychologist point of view. Jean Lave and Edwin Hutchins who contributed to the concept of classroom learning were very useful in the explanation of Holzkamp’s approach. In the second part of the book, Holzkamp looks at the modern world and the concept of classroom learning as something that is cultural and historical yet has an influence in socialization as well as learning. In the second part of the book, he looks at Michel Foucault’s work of Discipline and Punish. According to Holzcamp, the historical way we know classroom learning is limiting to the student in that the ability of a student to learn is constrained to some finite teaching strategies. In his approaches, he strived to look for a way of learning that would make full use of the potential of the learner. Holzkamp explains expansive learning in the last part of the book which aims at overcoming the limitations that classroom learning presents. His ultimate plan was to write a book on life leadership but his demise came before he could go past the early stages of developing the book but some of this work was published in form of journals in “Forum Kritische Psychologie” and “Argument”.

The period 1960s through to 1970s, critical psychology was known as radical psychology but the main reason it went by this term is to discourage the focus on the individual as the main object of analysis. It was also to discourage psychologists not to use the individual only as the only source of psychopathology. The close inspection of the role inspection plays was considered in radical psychology. The role of the society was looked at in the light that it causes and treats problems. Radical psychology looked at the change in society as an alternative therapy skill to treat illnesses of the mind as well as deal with the prevention of psychopathology. Anti-psychiatry was a term that was so common within psychiatry and so the British preferred the use of the term Critical Psychiatry. Up to today, the term Critical Psychology is still used to refer to the branch of psychology that seeks alternative methods of therapy to the conventional methods or forms of therapy that exist in the discipline of psychology. It is also against the idea of focusing so much on the individual that the influence the society has in the individual is not considered.

In the 1990s, there were more authors writing about Critical Psychology. The one that caused a biggest shake and was most famous for its writings was an edited book and its title was Critical Psychology. This was a book written by Dennis Fox and Isaac Prilleltensky. Many different introductory texts that were written in the United Kingdom and were focused on critical psychology have a particular interest in the discourse. This was argued by different people in critical psychology as being as dangerous as mainstream psychology as it heavily relies on something; language. Heavily relying on one thing in a dynamic world is dangerous when you are supposed to explain something that interacts with so many things and in different ways. In the year 1999, Ian Parker came up with a manifesto that was very influential. The manifesto was on the Annual Review of Critical Psychology as well as the online journal Radical Psychology. In the manifesto, Ian says that Critical Psychology should have the following components;

Close examination in a systematic way of the manner in which various kinds of psychological action as well as experience have more weight over that of others, the manner in which the accounts of “psychology” which are dominant operate in ideologies as well as the service of the power.

  • The manner in which the different varieties of psychology are constructed in the cultural and historical sense in their study and the manner in which the different kinds of psychology may assert or may refuse the assumptions of ideology of the mainstream psychological models
  • The body of knowledge of the different kinds of the examination and the regulation by the individual himself or herself in day to day life and the manner in which psychological culture works when outside of the boundaries of academic practice as well as professional practice.
  • The detail look at the manner in which mainstream psychology structures the professional work as well as the academic work in psychology and the manner in which day by day activities may provide a foundation for the act of resisting the happenings of the different disciplinary practices that are happening today.

There are quite a number of journals that are international and are solely dedicated to Critical Psychology. Some of them include the Annual Review of Critical Psychology as well as the International Journal of Critical Psychology which is no longer being published. The journals lean more to the academic world. The Annual Review of Critical Psychology is an open access journal that runs online. In Britain, the Critical Psychologists and the Critical Psychiatrists have some commonality which they express via the Asylum Collective.

Main Criticisms of Conventional psychology

Different groups such as psychiatrists and patients as well as the public in general and the industrial lobbyists, or the very rich groups of society and the less rich groups of society, or even psychologists and their clients all have difference in power within the different groups. The psychiatrist is on a different power level as compared to the patient. They have met to discuss the same thing but it is clear that they will not discuss it from the same point of view. With such kind of treatments, the patient will mostly try to resist what the psychiatrist is saying. The psychiatrist and the patient may not agree especially when the patient has some knowledge on the same. Psychologists also have the same problem when dealing with their clients. They normally never have the same ground on which they base their actions. A patient will always want to stay in the comfort zone and what he or she went to do at the clinic is for him or her to be told that he or she is on the right course. The psychiatrist wants to gain millage as he or she interacts with the client but most of the time rather than not this millage are never easy to gain. The people who are very rich in society will definitely be at a very different level of power from the people who are less well-off in terms of finances. There are ideologies that the rich has formed about themselves and there are ideologies that the poor has formed about themselves. There also exist the theories the rich have come up about the poor and those that have come up about the rich. They are so different and I few were to put the two groups in a room there would be so much emotion that would feel the room. This already says a lot about their theories, they are based in the way they feel and not on how things are. Some poor people may have been raised by a mother who highly trained them to be beggars. They grow up not working for what they want in life. In life, you can work for whatever possibility possible that was created by the creator of heaven and earth. The powers have been given to the human being but instead he or she will sit back and watch as things get out of hand for him o r her then start to blame some past experience or blame some one . As much as it is true that the way we relate with people I our childhood, the things that are said to us during our childhood and the things that are done to us during our childhood are very important in determining how we grow up, there exists so much media from which to learn from and so many people around us to learn from. There is no limitation as to what a human being can do that we are aware of in terms of improving their well being and taking it from one level to another. A human being can always improve himself. A human being can always fight for what he or she wants and still is in a position to wake up, shake the dust off and continue with life stronger than ever.

The industrial lobbyists will have an angle from which they argue their points but the general public will always blame them for anything they can possibly utter when it comes

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