Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

On the Path to Excitement

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

On the Path to Excitement

Article excerpt

CPA Award for Distinguished Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology (2002) Prix de la SCP pour contributions remarquables a l'enseignement et a la formation en psychologie (2002)


In the early days of the "scientist-practitioner" (Boulder Model) orientation to the education of professional psychologists, clinical graduate students studied in a climate that was both exhilarating and troubled. Students were challenged to blend two strikingly different and conflictual world views, albeit without guidance from previous generations of scientist-practitioners. Accordingly, the development of a methodologically sound, and clinically relevant, research program was a heavy burden. This paper reviews the author's effort to find a research question that would recognize clinical service, achieve scholarly goals, and also satisfy yearnings for a personally exciting topic. The search led to the study of aberrations in affective (excitement) modulation that are found in schizophrenic-spectrum disorder, and thoughts about therapeutic interaction with this population.

Clinical graduate students I knew in the 1950s were emotionally buoyed by the idea of a scientist-practitioner model, as proposed at the 1949 Boulder, Colorado conference on the education of clinical psychologists (Raimey, 1950). We liked the concept despite the fact that our faculty had not themselves been given formal scientist-practitioner training. Students received mixed messages from the methods-bent academics who worked on their "left-brains" and from practitioners who looked after the "right hemisphere." We heard assurances that the blend of the two traditions in our heads would produce well-hyphenated "scientist-practitioners."

The academic curriculum in the late 1950s, featured large doses of both hard-nosed and soft-headed psychology. Typical of the former, those of us then enrolled in the University of Illinois Psychology Department dwelled on Osgood's "Method and Theory of Experimental Psychology" (1953), as well as Hull's (1943), Spence's (1956), and Mowrer's (1960) learning theories. Supplementing the hard-nosed aspects of science (with its t-scopes, rat runways, and verbal learning paradigms) were advances in developmental psychology and the social psychology of attitude and dissonance models. Personality assessment topics should have been engaging to clinical students, but instead they listened with frustration to debates about the number of basic factors (16 or 3 or many) in the structure of normal personality (Cattell,1957; Eysenck, 1960; Guilford, 1954, respectively). Most of us felt that the question was reminiscent of a Thomistic concern about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. In stark contrast, clinically skilled faculty made us sensitive to clients' capacities -but offered only fuzzy prescriptions from Freudian (1933), Rogerian (1951), and other therapeutic and personality theory traditions (Hall & Lindzey, 1957). Although precise scoring practices were taught to summarize projective test protocols (e.g., Klopfer, 1942), the more credible training came from standardized IQ test administration and MMPI's "dust bowl" efforts to characterize personality traits (Hathaway & McKinley, 1951).

Subsequent decades of educational planning have made progress in moulding professional training practices (e.g., Belar & Perry, 1992), although it is noteworthy that debates about the best curriculum for scientist-practitioners still continue. Blue ribbon professional conferences are convened every few years to reconsider our field's educational philosophy and training strategies (Benjamin, 2001).

The emotional climate of professional meetings. As an antidote to the frustration arising from a curriculum training two diverse world views, convention addresses given by top scholars generated a great deal of excitement. I shall ever remember Harlow speaking of maternal attachment (complete with the chicken wire, terry-cloth covered, and nipple-laden forgery of monkey mothers), and still recall finding his views far more interesting than Hullian or Skinnerian theories of mother-child interactions (Harlow, 1958, 1962). …

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