Major Approaches to Clinical Psychology


This work compares and contrasts the four major approaches to clinical psychology in relation to Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Disease overview and Classification

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic biobehavioral disease or disorder that presents in early childhood and which may continue to the later stages of life even adulthood, if left untreated (Biederman, 2005). In other words, ADHD is a developmental disease. ADHD is a continuous trait that is common throughout the general population. This disorder is normally classified under the disruptive behavior disorders along with others disorders such as conduct disorders, oppositional defiant disorder and antisocial disorder.


Most of ADHD symptoms are behavioral and will include impulsivity, hyperactivity or over-activity, and/or inattention. In most cases, each of the above-mentioned behavior (symptoms) is likely to occur infrequently alone starting as early as from five to seven years of age. According to various studies on the disorder, these symptoms can result to learning complications, social, and emotional functioning, among other serious difficulties in children.


The causes of ADHD are not fully defined. Scientists and researchers have always linked the disorder to a number of factors, with genes being thought to play the largest role. However, just like many other disorders and illnesses ADHD is caused by a combination of factors such as diet and substance abuse during gestation periods in humans, among other environmental factors. Other possible causes of ADHD as observed are linked to evolutionary theories where it is believed that the various aspects surrounding the disorder could be an adaptive behavior or feature in pre-modern humans.


It is absolutely not easy to diagnose a child with this disorder by using only one test due to the fact that many of the common symptoms of the disorder would tend to occur from time to time and this may be confusing. A perfect diagnosis of the disorder can be done through a psychiatric assessment by a specialist where a number of procedures can be applied to rule out other potential causes of the associated symptoms.


Common treatment of ADHD focuses on lowering the level of symptoms and trying to improve normal functioning. In this regard, treatment would include medication, training or education, and various types of psychotherapy among other interventions.

Approaches to Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology refers to a specialty sector or area within the widely reputed branch of psychology that deals with diagnosis, assessment and the overall treatment of abnormal behaviors, mental illnesses and psychiatric problems in humans. In other words, clinical psychology involves integration of theory, science and clinical practice for reasons meant to establish understanding, protection or prevention, and relieve of psychologically-based dysfunction and also to enhance and promote subjective well-being of humans.

Overview of key aspects

Clinical psychology is termed as the single largest specialty sector or branch within psychology. Even though psychology mostly involves psychotherapy and psychological assessment, these are not the only practical parts in clinical psychology. Other practices which clinical psychologists may engage in include teaching, research, forensic testimony, consultation, and program administration and development.

Approaches of Psychology

Clinical psychologists are reputable experts in the provision of psychological assessment and testing, psychotherapy, and in the diagnosis of mental-related illnesses and disorders (Cooper and Turpin, 2007). The main four approaches in this specialty would include psychodynamic, humanistic, family systems, and cognitive-behavioral. The personnel in this distinguished career normally train within these four theoretical orientations. The following slides observes the four approaches of psychology in relation to Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Origin of the Approach

The psychodynamic approach is said to have been influenced by psychological epitomes such as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud through their work and contribution in psychoanalysis in the late 1800s.

Goals attached to this approach

According to Pinquart (2002), the main goal of this intervention is contained in a technique referred to as ‘free association’ which makes it easy for patients to revive and report their most hurting memories which may even extend to their early childhood. As Freud observed in his experiments, it is obviously easy to treat psychological disorders in humans simply by trying to identify and resolve the unspoken problems contained in the unconsciousness via free associations. Other key goals of psychodynamic approach would include improved social adjustment and symptom reduction.

Other goals aligned to this approach in the treatment of psychological disorders is to diagnose the disorder explicitly, educate and train people about the disorder, and development of strategies that patients can follow in coping with the disorder.

Techniques and Strategies applied in this approach

This approach applies a number of strategies to administer its role. These include direct interaction with patients through free association and also through short-term supportive approaches administered through interpersonal therapy or IPT.

Effects of psychodynamic in the treatment of ADHD

Improved social adjustment and reduction of symptoms are some of the main goals of psychodynamic approach of psychology and in that case, it is an effective form of psychotherapy treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through the developed therapy of psychoanalysis. Through interpersonal therapy, this approach is also certain to reduce the effects of ADHD in later stages of life.


Origin of the approach

Cognitive-behavioral is a type of psychotherapy usually based on how humans feel, think, and act. This approach is used to help patients understand those feelings and the thoughts that tend to influence their behaviors. The approach combines ideas and observations which have been developed by rational emotive behavior therapists and cognitive therapists. Cognitive-behavioral is usually based on the assumption that our feelings and behaviors are triggered by our thoughts and not external aspects such as other people around us, events or even situations. In this respect, it is obviously possible to change or alter the way we think or feel.

Goals attached to this approach

The main goal or objective behind this approach is the identification of how the dysfunctional ways of an individual’s view and interpretations of some life aspects contribute in their psychological problems. It is scientifically assumed that, most cases of behavior and emotional problems are acquired through learning. This brings us to another goal of this therapy in that it helps patients or clients to gradually forget their unwanted perceptions or reactions and to acquire new ways of behaving or reacting.

Techniques and Strategies Applied in this approach

This psychotherapy approach normally applies two major strategies; Socratic questioning and systematic desensitization. Normally, this approach is a collaborative effort which involves therapists and their clients or patients whereby therapists’ role is to help the clients in relevance to what they learn from them. Unlike the psychodynamic way which forces the harsh memories of past childhood experiences to establish the causes of a particular problem, cognitive-behavioral just is aimed directly on solutions by encouraging patients or clients to try to change bad or wrong patterns of behavior(Finch Jr, 1993).

CBD in the treatment of ADHD

If matched correctly to the context of the problems of individuals, effective cognitive-behavioral ways are likely to improve efforts aimed at the treatment of ADHD symptoms in both children and adults. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and ADHD are compatible in that, the approach is effective in addressing most of the issues associated with the disorder by helping patients establish positive changes in life. In that case, the approach is an effective way of addressing ADHD issues in both children and adults.


Origin of the approach

This approach of clinical psychology was established in the year 1950 by Carl Rogers in his reactions to psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral theories. The theories in this approach observe that, humans have independent built-in mechanisms which tend to help them through psychological issues and development of strong personalities.

Goals of the approach

The main objective of this approach is to bring out the so-called built-in mechanism in humans.

Techniques and Strategies applied in this approach

This approach applies various techniques or strategies which include unconditional positive regard, empathetic understanding, and congruence.

Humanistic approach in the treatment of ADHD

Humanistic approach, just like other therapies can be used to treat people with attention issues. This approach uses the highlighted techniques in emphasizing personal growth, achievement of human potential, self-esteem, control of behavior and prediction. Humanistic therapy is effective in facilitating actualization and acceptance among patients with ADHD or other attention problems.

Family Systems

Origin of the approach

This approach identifies family relationships as the most effective intervention in human psychological well-being. It is a reliable form of therapy that tends to view positive changes through various forms of interactions between members of the same family. It is commonly perceived that, issues seeking of a resolution in problems are ever beneficial and successful where families have been involved. As a sector of psychotherapy, family therapy traces its roots in the first half of the 20th century with the emergence of marriage counseling and child guidance movement.

Goals of the approach

The main goal of this approach, as it is observed in many cases is to identify negative behaviors, improve communication and offer healthy and acceptable family roles.

Techniques or strategies in this approach

Family therapy uses a number of techniques to carry out its goals. Some of these strategies include communication theory, systemic coaching, relationship education, reality therapy, psychoeducation and attached-focused family approach among other interventions.

Family system approach in the treatment of ADHD

Family systems therapy is a validated intervention option for ADHD and considering its interpersonal context, it is an effective way of coping with this attention problem (Carr, 2002). One main aspect which makes family effective in the treatment of the disorder is that, it establishes a basis for the problem between the therapist and the patient. This approach helps in addressing the constraints which may tend to arise from being associated with people who have been affected by ADHD. The efficacy of family therapy on the treatment of ADHD has been empirically supported by research and therefore, it has been recommended as the most suitable approach to solve ADHD problems.


Biederman, J. (2005). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a selective overview. Biological psychiatry, 57 (11), 121-122.

Carr, A. (2000). Evidence-based practice in family therapy and systemic consultation. Journal of Family Therapy, 22 (1), 29- 60.

Cooper, M. and Turpin, G. (2007). Clinical psychology trainees’ research productivity and publications: An initial survey and contributing factors. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 14 (1), 54-62.

Finch Jr, A. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral procedures with children and adolescents: A practical guide. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Pinquart, M. (2002). How effective are interventions with caregivers? An updated meta-analysis. The Gerontologist, 42(3), 356.

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