An Entire Branch of Learning and Practice
General psychology covers all basic schools of psychological study and practice, and to some degree even incorporates specialized fields of study as they apply to the whole.
About General Psychology
- History and development of psychology
- Focuses and specializations
The Beginning of a New Science of the Mind
In the 1880s and 1890s Sigmund Freud, under the influence of Josef Breuer, a neurologist, began to develop the crucial ideas of human mental process that ultimately came to be known as psychology. A blend of medical observations and conjecture on the common patterns of human thought and personality, psychology was, and remains, a mix of hard medical science and more abstract theory regarding the nature of the mind supported by the physical brain.
In the century since these ideas first began to be popularized the field of psychology has grown enormously, and formed many schools and specializations within the field. From hard theorists like B.F. Skinner, convinced of the nearly mechanistic nature of the mind, to neurologists convinced that mind itself is an illusion caused by peculiarities of the nervous system, there appears to be a niche for almost every approach and every focus…and a useful application for all methods of treatment!
As science has discovered more and more of the details of the physical functioning of the brain and neurological system, however, it hasn’t ruled out the vital utility of a theory of mind. Whether our sense of self is illusion or an evaluation of existing fact, we function as beings with mind, and our difficulties are best handled through recognition of the mind, as well as the body that generates that mind.
Methods and Approaches to the Science of Psychology
There are many schools and technique used in various forms of psychology. The two most commonly used and recognized are methods of behavior modification, and methods of “the talking cure.” The first method draws from the work of B.F. Skinner, focusing on clear patterns of learned behaviors and methods of producing new habits.
Skinner proposed a highly mechanistic theory of the mind, with direct methods of imposing learning, or “conditioning” behavior under controlled circumstances, making use of both positive and negative reinforcements in the process of training subjects in habitual responses. Over many years and much time he was able to establish the value of conditioning as a technique for intentionally creating learned reflexive responses in test subjects. His argument that behavior was a conditioned reflex created by natural inclinations shaped by repeated positive and negative experiences , not in most instances a conscious decision on the part of a fully active mind, was a shattering concept for many who believed themselves rational captains of their own fate.
Skinner’s techniques have proven vitally important in many areas of general therapeutic treatment.
“The talking cure,” however, precedes Skinner, and dates back to Freud. This approach, in which a counselor listens, and occasionally leads a patient through a long self-examination, exploring their own experiences, motives, and assumptions, has been adapted by many schools of psychology since, and has proven as useful as Skinner’s blunt methods of restructuring behavior and habit.
General psychology draws from these traditions and more, assembling a working approach from dozens of techniques and philosophies to help patients build meaningful, enriching lives.
Whether dealing with a chemical dependency needing behavior modification in the manner of Skinner, or an adult facing mid-life challenges and yearning to re-evaluate his or her life, a referral agency can help direct a client to the right counselor.