Personal and Impersonal Influences on Psychologists
M. Allan Cooperstein, Ph.D.
Cooperstein, M. A. (2003, May).
Personal and Impersonal Influences on Psychologists.
Psychologist Quarterly, 63(5),
measured by the rapidity of change, the succession of influences that modify the
George Eliot, The
Shaping and Classifying
Although little research
exists on the subject, numerous influences mold careers in psychology. One
classification style distinguishes between the scientist-practitioner and
practitioner-scientist. The Boulder (Colorado) Model of the
scientist–practitioner training philosophy, was finalized by the American
Psychological Association (APA) in 1949. This emphasizes the psychologist as
predominantly a scientist, capable of conducting research, with testing and
psychotherapy skills as secondary skills. Albee (2000) isolates the prominent
flaw in this model as a product of the zeitgeist in its intense reliance
upon and uncritical acceptance of the medical model and related explanations of
An alternative was presented
in 1973, in Vail, Colorado. APA confirmed the Boulder model, but added support
and guidelines for the “Vail Model” of the practitioner-scientist (and Psy.D.
programs). This accounted for the majority of applicants to clinical psychology
doctoral programs who aimed towards clinical service. Research skills received
less weight, while clinical skills were highlighted. Interestingly, Snepp and
Peterson (1988) found that, except for a slight superiority of Psy.D. students
in “sensitivity” and of Ph.D. students in “scientific attitude”, there were no
reliable differences between interns from practitioner programs and those from
Influenced most conspicuously
by Jung’s (1971/1976) work, Mitroff and Kilmann (1978) formulated a typology
based on scientific orientation. Their types, however, should be seen as
representing personal orientations in combination with external influences
(e.g., instructors, mentors, authors, etc.).
Logical, detached, and impersonal, they appear value-free, exacting,
reductionistic, and empirical. Relying upon consensual agreement, external
validity, controlled inquiry and the maintenance of distance between
scientist and the observed object/phenomenon, they may be seen as
impassionate, unprejudiced, skeptical, and systematic.
Also detached, value-free, holistic, imaginative, open to multiple
causation, and accepting of ambiguity and uncertainty, CTs recognize
conflicts between disparate and/or comprehensive holistic theories and
appear unbiased, impersonal, imaginative, with speculative tendencies, and
capable of embracing a variety of views.
The CH is personal, valuing, holistic, and imaginative, open to multiple
causation and uncertainty, and concerned with human issues. They are
emotionally invested, admit to and are aware of personal biases, are
imaginative, speculative, and holistic.
Often applied to psychotherapists, the PH is personal, value-constituted,
interested, and open to causal and nonrational inquiry. The case study is
the main mode of inquiry and they appear interested, humanistic, admit bias,
and are committed to an action-oriented science.
A Sample of PPA
Psychologists’ Career Influences
Illustrating some of the
above information, four PPA psychologists volunteered information about
influences that impacted their career and related choices.
Psychologist 1 matriculated as an artist and biologist before entering
psychology. He blends the Boulder and Vail models, his work products ranging
from Analytical Scientist in testing and reporting, to Conceptual Humanist
in other professional writings, to Particular Humanist in his
psychotherapeutic approach. He tends to be analytical and holistic and open
to a variety of hypotheses. While valuing intuitions, he relies most heavily
on empirical data.
Psychologist 2, as an
undergraduate physics major, took mathematics and research-based courses,
suggesting an intrinsic Analytical Scientist orientation. He studied the
philosophy of science, becoming interested in epistemology and theories of
knowledge. Preferring theorizing (as would a Conceptual Theorist), he
believes “all science is psychology”; he was most interested in how
the mind worked, not the clinical aspects of psychology. He was exposed to
psychological education and supervision, but exposure to psychoanalytic
treatment became his most profound experience: he learned to understand and
discriminate “wise intuition and rationalized neurosis."
Psychologist 3 was
influenced by a background of humanism from her early home life. She majored
in English, minored in philosophy and history, and later graduated from an
Existential-Phenomenological psychology program. She says, had she not
discovered the inclusive, holistic, and humanistic program, she may not have
attended psychology graduate school. Professors were influential and she was
a graduate assistant to a well known phenomenologist. Consequently, graduate
school "felt so right." The influences to which she was exposed identified
the virtues of all systems and approaches, and acknowledged their truths and
limitations: “Man is too large for one perspective”. She treats “the whole
person using the system that best suits him or her… does not pathologize but
thinks about a person in a way that allows us to see and strengthen the
strengths while acknowledging the limitations and their destructive power.”
Psychologist 4 was most
deeply influenced by his psychotherapy experience: “My therapist…would
probably have described herself as an ego psychologist”. He says
“Psychotherapy was…the best educational training that I could have had for
my work now as a psychologist--far more helpful than any class I ever took
or book that I ever read. It was also a major, if not the major turning
point in my life…I can't imagine doing what I do now without knowing what it
is like to sit in the other chair.” Influenced greatly by Jung, he says “I
think I probably also saw in the image of the older Jung a sort of father
figure that I had never had in my own life, a man with whom I could identify
and who was, you might say, encouraging me to look inward for the first
time.” Consequently, he was, at least in part, attracted to the
Paradoxically, psychology has neglected the study of psychologists and the
traits and influences that guide their entries into the field. Clearly,
psychologists differ in their diversity beyond the fundamental Boulder and
Vail models and the Mitroff and Kilmann typology. Hopefully, additional
research will not only better identify those who are best suited for careers
in psychology and its subfields, but also identify traits and influences
that could guide their career directions and enhance their abilities as
scientists and/or practitioners.
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Psychology: Research &