What Celebrity Case Studies Can Teach about Clinical Formulation of Mental Health Conditions
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A key challenge in the 'making of the psychologist' is how to teach clinical case formulation, which goes beyond just listing the symptoms that make the 'diagnosis'. One approach which has been both effective and popular among students entails employing case studies of individuals who are celebrities with known mental health conditions and then exploring not only their presenting problems and symptoms, but also a detailed analysis of biopsychosocial predisposing concerns, precipitating events, perpetuating circumstances, and protective factors. Nine cases deemed to be particularly suitable for such psychobiographical instruction are reviewed to illustrate the learning points about case formulation. The cases were chosen because they provide a breadth of presenting symptoms and the individuals under consideration are ones who for the most part have been self-disclosing about their conditions, which makes the clinical material accessible for study; a number have been leaders in the fight against mental illness stigma. The use of celebrity case accounts serves to develop talents in case formulation and appreciation for the complexity of people and the developmental influences in identity formation. Further pedagogic benefits are heightened awareness of mental health stigma issues and the personal and societal barriers individuals face in seeking needed help.
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