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What are the effects of critical thinking?

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Practicing since : 2003
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I need your opinion on something .... What do you think the most common errors of critical thinking that you see within assessing addiction cases and what would you recommend to help changed this at a personal and systemic level. After this I will no longer bother you. Thank you.
Posted Fri, 25 Jan 2013 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar 16 hours later

Critical thinking is a type of reflective thinking that is aimed properly analyzing whether a claim is true or not, before making any conclusions. In other words, a critical thinker always sees things with a analytical or logical perspective and does not take things based on their face value.

Now, though critical thinking is very useful in clinical medicine for diagnosis and evaluation, when it comes to assessing or treating people with addiction disorders, a strict critical thinking may not be the best option. The reasons are as follows:

1) When it comes to addiction-related problems, one of the most important therapeutic factors is rapport. When a clinician is critical in his thinking or approach, then building a strong rapport is difficult. A person may not open up his feelings and problems if he / she gets the impression that the clinician is being judgemental. This may further lead to poor motivation for de-addiction and treatment failure.

2) Strict logical and critical thinking may apply well to science, but when it comes to human emotions, it may not be suitable all the time. This is because each person has a different mental make-up and a different way of expressing and managing their emotions. So, one logic may not apply to all and the clinician has to be sensitive to the patients' varying emotional needs.

3) One of the key qualities required of a clinician while dealing with psychological problems is empathy. Empathy basically means "being able to put yourself in their shoes". When a clinician follows a critical way of thinking, it is very difficult to show empathy to the patient. It is possible to show sympathy, but remember, sympathy is very different from empathy.

4) People with addiction problems often have many other psycho-social problems which may be colouring the picture. These psycho-social problems may actually be causing or perpetuating the addiction. So, being critical or analytical about a person's addiction alone may lead to the other problems being ignored or minimized.

5) The best approach to assessment and management to a persons with addiction problems is a multi-dimensional approach. These people have to be looked at and handled with a wholistic perspective. It will not help the patient if his problems alone are critically analyzed and diagnosed. The persons problems, difficulties, situation and distress should all be taken into account and a humanistic and a wholistic approach is essential.

I would recommend the following tips to modify this thinking pattern when dealing with addiction cases.

1) Firstly, clinicians should know to discern when and where to apply critical thinking and when and where not to. They should not use critical thinking as a blanket method in all cases and at all times.

2) The clinician should adopt the essential virtues of empathy and sensitivity. This will prevent the clinician from taking a critical or judgemental stand towards patients with addiction problems.

3) Looking at the patient as a whole and not at his / her disease alone will prevent the errors of critical thinking

4) The clinician has to put the patient's needs and well-being first, rather than his diagnostic abilities. There would be no point in making a perfect diagnosis, if the patient loses trust in you and doestn't stick on to treatment.

5) Especially, when dealing with patients with addiction problems, it is to be remembered that the ultimate aim is to help the patient stay motivated and keep off his / her addictions. So, in this process, the clinician has to be flexible in his approach and if necessary, make a few compromises or concessions, so that the ultimate goal of patient well-being is achieved. The clinician should avoid strictly sticking on to logic or being critical in his stand towards the patient.

Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar
Consultant Psychiatrist
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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