One of the biggest challenges that faces psychology is that in order to treat psychopathology, you first need to classify what is and what is not psychopathology.
The current system used within the science of psychology is attempting to create a definition of what classifies as psychopathology. The definition cites five major characteristics
- The impact on the life of the affected individual
- The degree of threat or actual danger that specific behaviours bear on the affected individual or to the community more generally
- The frequency of the behaviours within the general population
- Violation of social norms and expectations
- Biological differences
There are a number of issues with this system.
- Behaviours can impact the life of an individual without necessarily being classified as psychopathology. For example, someone can experience distress due to hunger without experiencing psychopathology. They can also experience temporary distress due to life circumstances without experiencing psychopathology.
- Someone can be no threat to themselves or their community while still experiencing psychopathology. Autism spectrum disorders can be experienced with little threat to anyone.
- A behaviour can be infrequent, but not be psychopathology. Genuis is infrequent, but not necessarily psychopathology.
- A person can violate social norms without experiencing psychopathology, through the way they dress or behave. Also, what violates the social norms of one culture may not violate the norms of another culture. On top of this, someone can violate the norms of a dominant culture while complying with the social norms of a sub-culture within that culture. The Goth sub-culture and punk sub-culture have fashion norms that violate the accepted norms of most dominant western cultures but this is not psychopathology.
- EVERY person has biological differences and not everyone experiences psychopathology. It’s how our bodies are designed. We evolve and change. Where do we draw the line between what we consider biological differences that are significant enough to be classified as psychopathology and which ones are not considered psychopathology?
The other issue with attempting to define what is and is not psychopathology is that it creates an in/out dichotomy within psychopathology. You either meet the criteria or you fail to meet the criteria. You either are experiencing psychopathology or you are not experiencing psychopathology. While this seems logical, it fails to take into account the graded experience of an individual. For example, anxiety is not like pregnancy. An individual does not either experience crippling anxiety or experience no anxiety. They can experience everything from slight anxiety in some situations to destructive anxiety in all situations and everything in between. The current psychopathology system does not do a good job of effectively delineating when someone is and is not experiencing psychopathology.
In order to solve this, UTHP uses a different classification system. Instead of creating arbitrary boundaries to define when someone is and is not experiencing psychopathology, UTHP utilises a system that conforms to the natural classification system that people use to classify objects in our natural environment. It uses prototypes and exemplars to identify someone who is not experiencing psychopathology and then graded membership to identify the degree to which a person is different to this prototype and exemplar to identify when they are experiencing psychopathology.
The prototype is defined as: an individual who is able to efficiently and effectively fulfil their psychological needs.
This classification system aligns with the basic theory of the foundation of human behaviour, affect, and cognition: people are attempting to fulfil their psychological needs.
Someone who is able to do so must be able to do so within the context of their culture because if they fail to follow their cultural norms, they will be excluded from their group and face challenges in fulfilling their need for inclusion.
This removes the in/out dichotomy as membership is graded. It can be measured by testing how successful someone is at fulfilling their psychological needs.