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Understanding the origins of modern psychology

I believe that I have developed a deep understanding of the origins of modern psychology. I have found that the only way to understand modern psychology is by exploring its history and origins, knowing when it began, and recognizing the spirit of the time and the people who were responsible for establishing psychology as a separate science. While contemporary psychology and its branches reflect the discipline’s rich and varied history, the origins of psychology differ extensively from the current conceptions of the field. This difference reflects psychological paradigms shift across eras. These paradigms were influenced by personal, cultural, and political influences. I have learned that “truth” is a matter of perspective, as both philosophers and scientists that I have studied created their own theories explaining the complexity of human beings.

Contemporary psychology is focusing on an enormous range of topics, looking at human behavior and mental process from different perspectives such as biological, environmental, and cultural perspectives. By understanding the history of psychology, one can gain a better understanding of how these topics are studied and what one has learned thus far. One way to see that is through everyday nature of contemporary research. When conducting scientific studies, every scientist is actually an historian in their own area of expertise. Every journal article that scientists write begins with reviewing the literature of the topic or the immediate history of the problem. And, it is only though the context of history and though the information that has led up to that particular research, that can give significance and meaning to new findings. Therefore, the significance of the findings depend upon the relationship between modern psychology and the larger ongoing history of which it is a part.

· To develop an understanding of the continuity of ideas in psychology from ancient times to the present.

I was glad that I did my presentation on Aristotle because studying the classical perspectives of psychology have provided significant information about how great philosophers have played a crucial role in understanding how one acquires information (epistemology), and how one’s observation of a phenomena can lead to empirical results. Therefore, any current or future scientifical research is based on past scientific achievements and discoveries. From the beginning, psychology has been faced with a number of different questions. For example, the initial question of how to define psychology helped establish it as a science that is separate from physiology and philosophy. Throughout history, psychologists have considered topics and issues that psychology should be concerned with and the appropriate research methods that should be used to study psychology.

While psychology did not emerge as a separate discipline until the late 1800s, its earliest history can be traced back to the time of the early Greeks. Currently, many other issues are still debated by psychologists, such as the ongoing debate of the relative contributions of nature vs. nurture- that are rooted in these early philosophical traditions, and the focusing on observable behaviors vs. internal mental processes.

Although some early philosophers relied on methods such as observation and logic, today’s psychologists utilize scientific methodologies to study and draw conclusions about human thought and behavior. Thus, this makes psychology different from philosophy. Physiology and medicine also contributed to psychology’s eventual emergence as a scientific discipline. Early physiology research on the brain and behavior had a dramatic impact on psychology, ultimately contributing to the application of scientific methodologies to the study of human thought and behavior.

· To develop an understanding of the historical and cultural contexts that influence people and ideas in psychology.

The historical progress doesn’t seem to be the product of random events (Brennan. p, 1) because these events have interrelated relationships. Therefore, one needs to learn about the cultural zeitgeist that influences the context of events as well as the biographical background of the major figures that contributed to the development of psychology. As a result, I have learned that the emergence of new discoveries or paradigms in science throughout history, were a product of the efforts of a great person, cultural and intellectual climate within a nation, or the combination of the zeitgeist and the great person theories. At the beginning of the 20th century, some psychological perspectives were supported by powerful scientific communities while other perspectives were suppressed. For example, the Greek cultural climate contributed to Aristotle’s philosophy, and the seduction theory of Freud was rejected by the psychoanalysis community due to political and social forces.

· To help students become aware of their own philosophical beliefs about humanness and how these beliefs affect their styles of psychotherapy.

According to different philosophical beliefs about humanness, I have been able to develop my own view by taking some of these beliefs into account. I believe that every individual has a unique side and strives to become what he truly desires.In addition, I look at humans from a holistic perspective (biological, cultural, spiritual, social). Therefore, I see myself treating and conceptualizing my patients in the future by adopting a myriad of useful modalities. Since I believe in spirituality as a part of holistic care, I consider myself a big fan of humanistic and existentialism framework. I like the assertion of the two basic parts of being (authentic and unauthentic). Because authenticity is a healthy way of being, existential and/or humanistic psychotherapy seeks to bring about a genuine encounter between therapist and patient rather than just addressing the patient’s symptoms. Thus, it considers a patient who is willing to change as an act of individual courage and will. In addition, when we look at our patient with positive perspective (having courage and will), we consider a very crucial part of their personality, which is resiliency. Moreover, the therapist and the patient may reflect upon how the patient has answered life's questions in the past, but attention ultimately shifts to searching for a new and increased awareness in the present and enabling a new freedom and responsibility. The meaning of life and existence is never fixed; rather, it constantly changes, anxiety is part of the human condition and even death is a basic human condition that gives significance to life.

After writing a brief illustration about my ownphilosophical beliefs about humanness and some reasons of adhering to particular psychological schools,I believe that a competent therapist uses multiple techniques in therapy adapting to each particular patients needs, personality, time in therapy, severity and type of psychopathology, etc. Furthermore, I cannot ignore where I came from (CBT School). During and after my graduation from the master program, I used to think that CBT is the only way to treat and conceptualize a patient, as an empirically based therapy. Fortunately, I am glad that I have studied the history of psychology and personality and psychodynamic theories in depth. I am, thus able to evaluate my previous conviction about CBT. Nevertheless, I still think that CBT is very effective therapy with some psychological problems such as panic disorders. Metaphorically, I think I have an adolescent’s identity because I can imagine that my identity (therapeutic orientation) as a doctorate student would change when I gain more information as well as more experiences.

· To learn to explore psychological thought in depth

By studying this course, I have found that any psychological thought stem from broad philosophical systems of knowledge such as rationalism, pragmatism, and skepticism.etc, I believe William James pragmatism has contributed to psychology as an independent science. From a pragmatic stand point, I have learned that history is the ultimate judge of what is effective and what does not work very well. Essentially, the field of psychology is concerned with what is effective in bringing about emotional and psychological healing in individuals. This can range from problems like mild depression to schizophrenia. The number of identified psychological problems seems to have increased and so have the types and numbers of psychological interventions.

As with physical medicine, psychology encompasses the mainstream use of drugs and empirically based interventions along with numerous alternative therapies, including mindfulness and meditation. Although some traditional psychologists and psychiatrists tend to minimize these out-the-mainstream treatments, what is important is “what works?” Just as some alternative medical practices are successful where traditional medicine cannot help, so can alternative psychological interventions sometimes do what traditional psychology cannot do.

If we are to be successful in dealing with mental illnesses, we need to learn from the past. Even though we have empirically based interventions and modern treatments, we must not ignore the wisdom of the ancients. While we can look into the brains of individuals and test chemical changes in the body related to different emotional and psychological states, it does not mean that we fully understand the complexity of psychology.

According to Aristotle, we must remember that psychology literally means the study of the psyche or soul. This will always be challenging and requires an open mind and using all of the tools that history has provided.

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