Ninth Edition CoverGraziano & Raulin
Research Methods (9th edition)

E. Lightner Witmer (1867-1956) was an American psychologist and educator, who studied with Wundt in the Structuralist tradition. He also studied with Cattell (one of Wundt’s students), who applied psychology to the testing of mental abilities. 

Despite Wundt’s opposition to the idea, Witmer believed psychology could be applied to the solution of human psychological problems. At the University of Pennsylvania, he developed applied courses primarily for school teachers, including courses on the education and psychological treatment of children with developmental disabilities (retardation, visual impairment, emotional disturbance). In 1896, Witmer established the world’s first psychological clinic. There he developed new approaches for the assessment, treatment, and education of children. Witmer adopted interdisciplinary approaches, utilizing nurses, physicians, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and others, all working at his clinic. He named his approach psychoeducation.

In 1906, ten years after he started his clinic, Witmer founded the journal, The Psychological Clinic. In the first issue of his new journal, Witmer editorialized the importance of developing what he called a “new profession,” a psychological specialty to help solve real problems of people. What is needed, he suggested, is the intensive study (measurement), education, and treatment of individuals. Witmer named his specialty clinical psychology, thus becoming the world’s first clinical psychologist. Witmer was also one of the founders of the American Psychological Association.

Witmer was a functionalist who focused his work on the application of psychology to real-world problems. He believed that the environment was a critical influence in both the development and amelioration of human problems--a position consistent with the general functional movement and with the emerging behaviorists’ models. Witmer is credited as a pioneer in founding child clinics, the professional specialties of clinical psychology and school psychology, and as one of the founders of the APA. He integrated the field of mental testing, behaviorism, and applied psychology and demonstrated the value of the applied focus of American functionalism.

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