Several techniques are used by clinical psychologists to study abnormal behaviour. Some of the important techniques are given below:
1. Case History Method:
This method is unavoidable in abnormal psychology. To diagnose the cause of abnormality it is the first step to the study of abnormal personality. Case history technique is urgently necessary to trace the history of the patient. The origin and development of the disease cannot be interpreted without knowing the case history of the patient.
When any patient comes to a psychiatrist for counselling or treatment, to start with, psychiatrist makes a detailed record of the economical, physical, social and psychological conditions of the patient, starting from early childhood to date.
His family history, the type of school in which he reads his academic performance, his peer group and playmates, his success and failure in life, his anxieties and worries, first occurrence of the disease etc. are recorded in detail by the clinical psychologist. Unless the case history of the patient is obtained, chances are remote for the cure of the disease.
It is not possible to collect the case history of the patient when he looses touch with the reality. Therefore in case of mild forms of abnormality it is possible to get a correct and accurate history of the patient’s background.
However, in cases of severe forms of abnormality any member of the family of the patient having close association with him from the childhood can help in getting the correct case history of the patient.
The case history of the patient is absolutely essential as without case history it is impossible to diagnose and cure the disease. The case history method is of remarkable importance specially while treating the problem child and juvenile delinquents.
2. Clinical Method:
Clinical method is more comprehensive than the case history method. In a clinic there is a doctor who completes all types of physical examination. After the detailed physical examination of the patient is over, the psychiatrist makes a thorough study of the patient from the psychological angle.
The psychologist looks for possible bodily disorders which may lie at the root of psychological disease. The mental conflicts of the patient are also examined which may be the cause of his bodily defects and physical diseases. The various personality traits and emotional instability etc. are also examined.
Besides, there are social workers who supply the information about the nature of environment and social surrounding of the patient. If it is necessary the patient may be advised to change his environment for the cure of his disease.
The clinical method needs the coordinated effort of a doctor, a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist and a social worker. It also needs the cooperation of the patient for the rapid cure of the disease.
In the light of the facts and findings supplied by the above specialists, the treatment of the patient is undertaken. After all the details are obtained and the disease is diagnosed, the counselling of the psychoanalyst may be necessary for the cure of the disease.
3. Experimental Method:
The experimental method used to study maladaptive behaviour has been used recently in abnormal psychology. Several methods of treatment like electro-therapy were first experimented on animals and then on human beings. Insulin and shock therapies are also being used today extensively in modern mental hospitals.
Various psychoanalytic concepts like unconscious anxiety, frustration, regression, repression, projection etc. have been studied by the experimental method.
Experimental Study on Unconscious Anxiety:
Blum (1969) designed an experiment to test whether unconscious activation of an idea highly loaded with anxiety can result in an observable emotional discharge. After handling several methodological problems which the experiment faced, the experimenter took several series of trials in which four stimuli (three dots in a vertical line, three dots in a horizontal line, a triangle and a blank card) were exposed repeatedly one at a time in random order.
The results of the experiment indicated according to Blum (1961) that “activation of an unconscious idea does not release its associated anxiety response, but that preconscious activation can produce as potent a discharge as fully conscious awareness does. Apart from the specific findings the study demonstrates that given appropriate methods and techniques, the most elusive psychodynamic concepts can also be put to rigorous laboratory test.”
Comparison of Defence Preferences among Male College Students:
Blum (1967) conducted a study to assess defensive reactions to psychosexual stimuli in an indirect but objectively scorable fashion by the help of Blacky Picture Technique test.
Experimental studies on various defence mechanisms such as projection, repression, and regression have been conducted on children and college students.
Koch made one experimental study to measure the repression hypothesis.
College students were given a series of 10 minutes quizzes. They rated it in a 5 point scale. After 5 weeks again the students were asked to recall them and it was noted that the grades associated with most satisfying feelings was best recalled while other grades having unpleasant feelings could not be recalled.
Sharp and Flangon in another experiment gave subjects three sets of words, namely religious, sexual and neutral and it was found that the subjects recalled more of the neutral words than words having religious and sexual bias.
Sharp (1938) developed another technique to measure repression from the case histories of a group of neurotics. She prepared two lists of words that related to serious emotional problems in their lives. It was found that the lists related to gratification were better recalled compared to other lists.
4. Follow up Method:
The cure of the patient may be transitory and short lived. Actually one cannot know whether the cure is effective or ineffective unless a follow up study is made. The patient who is cured is again followed by the doctor.
This shows whether the therapy is long lasting or not. The follow up method is therefore important in order to measure the degree of therapy. The correct follow up method is to keep the information of every patient.
The follow up method is essential in order to have a concrete idea of the use of any method.