In the field of psychology, there are fewer programs and training sites emphasizing psychodynamic concepts. These concepts afford an important opportunity to understand people on a deep and complex level. As such, the limited exposure to psychodynamic case conceptualization in current training programs is concerning to us. A similar phenomenon is also observed with psychological assessment, where there is an overreliance on self-report methodology and an underappreciation of performance based measures such as narrative techniques. This has also become a problem in psychotherapy as trainees do not learn or understand how dynamic theory directly informs therapeutic technique. For example, Dr. Stein was providing a lecture on personality development to psychiatry residents, an amuse bouche of theory from Freud to more contemporary models. After the first part of the lecture, one of the residents earnestly asked, “this is very interesting to learn, but I am unsure of what to do with this. Is this supposed to go on a shelf somewhere?” In this example, she was open to the material but did not know how to apply clinically.
In the course of our work we have come across many professionals who have not been exposed to dynamic concepts. These people seem to fall into three classes or groups. The first group has an interest in understanding people on a deeper level, but doesn’t have the framework for thinking about or implementing it clinically. To the second group, these concepts seem too daunting or mysterious and they seek a more explicit and experience near framework. Finally, the third group is made up of those professionals and students who believe that psychodynamic ideas whether in therapy or assessment are obsolete and non-empirical.
The field has been fortunate to have many leaders who in different ways, have been seeking to make psychodynamic concepts both more user friendly and empirically grounded. One of these pioneers is Drew Westen who created the SCORS rating system. By creating the SCORS, particularly the SCORS-G, he provided Groups 1 and 2 a structured way to organize and synthesize complex implicit cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal processes that allow us to understand our self and others beyond the symptom level. It also addressed Group 3’s concerns by bridging the gap between theory, research, and practice. We have found that the SCORS-G provides a digestible mechanism for studying complex underlying processes that fits the demand of rigorous scientific exploration while also meeting the need of being clinically relevant in a deep and meaningful way. However, if the SCORS-G and these important clinical concepts are going to reach their fullest potential much continued work is needed.
Our mission is to contribute to keeping psychodynamic concepts available and clinically relevant in an ever-changing psychology field. Our medium for doing this is the Social Cognition and Object Relations Scale-Global Rating Method (SCORS-G). We will highlight how integrating the SCORS-G dimensions into one’s preferred theoretical framework can enhance the understanding, assessment, and treatment of patients. In our book and through workshops, we aim to accomplish this through four avenues: psychotherapy, formal psychological assessment, empirical support, and formal teaching.
First, we will demonstrate how incorporating the SCORS-G as a method of case conceptualization during the initial intake and psychotherapy process can assist in increasing the understanding of the patient beyond the symptom or disorder level, identify pertinent areas of clinical focus, and assist with therapeutic technique. The SCORS-G can help us to do this by providing an external structure on how to start this process while also promoting flexibility, creativity, and reliance on pre-existing clinical acumen.
Second, we will demonstrate how the SCORS-G is a clinically useful measure to incorporate into the formal psychological assessment process, particularly (but not exclusively) in its ability to rate and interpret Thematic Apperception Test (TAT: Murray, 1943) narratives using a combination of nomothetic and idiographic approaches.
Third, we will continue to explore the empirical correlates of the SCORS-G through a wide range of peer-reviewed publications. We will examine its psychometric properties, associations to important clinical phenomena, and relationships among SCORS-G variables with psychotherapy process, technique, and outcome. We are committed to using research to enhance the clinical utility of the SCORS-G across settings.
Finally, through lectures and workshops, we are devoted to increasing the accessibility and application of the SCORS-G along with comfort, competence and confidence in core psychodynamic concepts a wide range of mental health professionals.