Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology: Theory, Research, Assessment and Therapeutic Interventions

By Leonard M. Horowitz; Stephen Strack | Go to book overview

22
INTERPERSONAL DIAGNOSIS
OF PSYCHOPATHOLOGY

Aaron L. Pincus

Aidan G. C. Wright

The symptomatic acts which are expressions
of the mentally disordered are therefore most
meaningful for psychiatry when their inter-
personal contexts are known.

—H. S. Sullivan (1962, p. 303)

The earliest formal appearance of the term “interpersonal diagnosis” may be found in Leary and Coffey’s (1955) predecessor to the publication of Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A Functional Theory and Methodology for Personality Evaluation (Leary, 1957). Since then, many new developments have occurred in interpersonal psychology that rest firmly upon and usefully extend the fundamental scaffold developed by Leary and his colleagues. Thus today, interpersonal diagnosis is neither a unitary clinical assessment procedure nor a singular approach to the study of personality and psychopathology. Interpersonal diagnosis is a theoretically integrative paradigmatic approach to personality assessment (Wiggins, 2003), psychotherapeutic practice (Anchin & Pincus, 2010; Pincus & Cain, 2008), and the study of psychopathology (Horowitz, 2004). The term has been used to describe procedures that range dramatically in complexity, from basic typological assignment of interpersonal style (Wiggins, Phillips, & Trapnell, 1989) to longitudinal examinations of interpersonal behavior over time and relationships (Moskowitz, 2005, 2009) to a comprehensive and developmentally informed clinical case conceptualization approach (Benjamin, 2003; Critchfield & Benjamin, 2008). Thus, a very molar definition of interpersonal diagnosis would be: The use of those central and pluralistic practices employed by researchers and practitioners working within the interpersonal nexus of personality and psychopathology (Pincus, 2005b; Pincus, Lukowitsky, & Wright, 2010; Pincus, Lukowitsky, Wright, & Eichler, 2009; see Figure 22.1).

The center of Figure 22.1 identifies four basic elements of interpersonal diagnosis that tie together its pluralistic procedures and applications. First, interpersonal diagnosis is anchored to the nomological net of interpersonal constructs contained in the interpersonal paradigm in personality and clinical psychology. In one way or another, this includes the application of the Agency and Communion metaframework (Wiggins, 1991) and its derivations of the Interpersonal Circle (IPC; Gurtman, Chapter 18 in this volume; Fournier, Moskowitz, & Zuroff, Chapter 4 in this volume; Locke, Chapter 19 in this volume;

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