Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

A Study of Patients Who Go to a Psychology Clinic Seeking Treatment

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

A Study of Patients Who Go to a Psychology Clinic Seeking Treatment

Article excerpt

In order to characterize a typical clinical context, as opposed to an academic or research context, this article will analyze the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of patients who turn to a psychology clinic in need of professional help. This study was conducted using an initial sample of 1,305 patients at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) Clínica Universitaria de Psicología. Of the sociodemographic characteristics studied, it is noteworthy that the majority of patients were women (65%) and relatively young (the average age is 29.7 years-old). The disorders for which psychological help was most often needed were anxiety and mood disorders and relationship problems, which together made up 50% of cases. In 17.70% of cases, patients had at least one comorbid disorder in addition to the one that brought them to the clinic. The generalizability and implications of the results are discussed.

Keywords: descriptive study, clinical characteristics, demographic characteristics, psychology users, request for psychological treatment.

Con el objetivo de caracterizar el contexto clínico habitual, en contraposición al contexto académico o de investigación, se analizan las características sociodemográficas y clínicas de los pacientes que acuden a una clínica de psicología en demanda de ayuda profesional. El trabajo se ha realizado a partir de una muestra inicial de 1305 pacientes de la Clínica de Psicología de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. De las características sociodemográficas destaca que la mayoría de los pacientes son mujeres (65%), relativamente jóvenes (edad media de 29,7 años). Los trastornos por los que más frecuentemente se demanda ayuda psicológica son los trastornos de ansiedad, trastornos del estado de ánimo y problemas de relación, que constituyen alrededor del 50% de los casos. En un 17,70% de los casos hay uno o más trastornos comórbidos a aquel por el que se acude a consulta. Se discuten la generalización de los resultados y las implicaciones de los mismos.

Palabras clave: estudio descriptivo, características clínicas, características demográficas, usuarios de psicología, demanda de atención psicológica.

In recent years, an abundance of studies and opinions have elucidated the positive social perception of the practice of clinical psychology, both abroad and in Spain (Berenguer & Quintanilla, 1994; Buela-Casal, 2005; Consumer Reports, 1995; Labrador, Echeburúa, & Becoña, 2000). The general opinion is that psychologists' work is useful and effective, people seek out their services, and clients are generally satisfied with them (Berenguer & Quintanilla, 1994; Consumer Reports, 1995, Seligman, 1996). Mental Health Services in the public sector offer data about the requests they receive (e.g., Belloso & Espín, 2007; Valero & Ruiz, 2003), suggesting that in Spain, depressive and anxiety disorders are quite prominent, major depressive episodes having an annual prevalence of 13.96%, specific phobias 3.60%, alcohol dependence disorders 0.69%, anxiety or panic disorders 0.60%, and social phobias 0.60% (Haro et al., 2006). However, data on this prevalence in the general population, or the type of disorders for which help is requested in the public sector, is one thing; to quantify the requests made at centers that are not part of the public health system is another matter entirely.

In Spain, Santolaya, Berdullas, and Fernández (2001) have suggested that in normal clinical practice, the profile of Spanish clinical psychologists is generally young (22.5% are under 30) and the majority are women (70%) and work primarily in private practices (73%), either alone or in tandem with other professionals. Nevertheless, representative data is not available about the patients treated or the type of psychological treatment they received (problems, characteristics and duration of the intervention, results, etc.). Thus, we are at a loss for studies that describe the treatment reality of private clinical psychology practice, which constitutes the majority in Spain (Santolaya et al. …

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