Who un-framed Roger Rabbit?

Massimo Grasso, Pietro Stampa


The authors put forward a critical — and largely ironic — vision of some epistemological implications of research in psychotherapy and of the models that, at least in part, rest upon it. 
Among these implications, the first to consider are those concerning the concept of "mental health". Recent papers by American authors are surveyed, especially those that have appeared in translation in reputable Italian journals. The authors believe and try to show that ideas like "subjective wellbeing", "happiness", "positive/negative emotions" and so on, are ideological rather than scientific, and cannot stand up to an examination of both their logical structure and tests in the field. The research projects that use such constructs, in fact, all seem tautological and flawed by arbitrary conclusions. In particular, attempts to quantify these constructs via point scales lead to outcomes that are fanciful and at times even humorous. (The title of the article refers to the latter). 
A second kind of implication and of model that requires careful evaluation before being used in research is that concerning "mental disorder". Following the same approach – and referring to literature selected with the same criteria as those used in the first part of the paper — the authors end up making similar criticisms. 
According to the authors — who have taken up a line of thinking which was launched many years ago by the Roman group "Circolo del Cedro" and by the editors of the journal Rivista di Psicologia Clinica — the root of the problem lies in the use of medical epistemology in psychology. This is in fact based on empirical certainties deriving directly and hierarchically from the natural sciences (physics  chemistry  biology physiology  general pathology  special pathologies  semeiotics  diagnosis therapy): the same procedure is not valid in psychology, as is shown by the extreme difficulty found in clearly and univocally defining "normal" and "pathological", mental health and disorder. 
The authors draw political/cultural conclusions: research in psychotherapy today is too strongly influenced by the economic requirements connected to the American insurance companies' legal medicine demands, and by the needs of the academic powers that make a distorted and paradoxical use – entirely to the advantage of researchers in the bio-medical area – of the impact factor. 
This tendency risks making clinical psychology too simple and schematic. Clinical Psychology has nothing to gain by taking this path, which has in fact already proved to be detrimental to its progress both in the field of theory and in that of professional practice.

Full-text of the article  is available from the Italian version of this Journal.

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Rivista di Psicologia Clinica. Teoria e metodi dell'intervento

Rivista Telematica a Carattere Scientifico Registrazione presso il Tribunale civile di Roma (n.149/2006 del 17/03/2006)

ISSN 1828-9363