Integrating Clinical Staging and Phenomenological Psychopathology to Add Depth, Nuance, and Utility to Clinical Phenotyping: A Heuristic Challenge

The Lancet Psychiatry (forthcoming)
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Psychiatry has witnessed a new wave of approaches to clinical phenotyping and the study of psychopathology, including the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria, clinical staging, network approaches, the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology, and the general psychopathology factor, as well as a revival of interest in phenomenological psychopathology. The question naturally emerges as to what the relationship between these new approaches is – are they mutually exclusive, competing approaches, or can they be integrated in some way and used to enrich each other? In this opinion piece, we propose a possible integration between clinical staging and phenomenological psychopathology. Domains identified in phenomenological psychopathology, such as selfhood, embodiment, affectivity, etc., can be overlaid on clinical stages in order to enrich and deepen the phenotypes captured in clinical staging (‘high resolution’ clinical phenotypes). This approach may be useful both ideographically and nomothetically, in that it could complement diagnosis, enrich clinical formulation, and inform treatment of individual patients, as well as help guide aetiological, prediction, and treatment research. The overlaying of phenomenological domains on clinical stages may require that these domains are reformulated in dimensional rather than categorial terms. This integrative project requires assessment tools, some of which are already available, that are sensitive and thorough enough to pick up on the range of relevant psychopathology. The proposed approach offers opportunities for mutual enrichment: clinical staging may be enriched by introducing greater depth to phenotypes; phenomenological psychopathology may be enriched by introducing stages of severity and disorder progression to phenomenological analysis.
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Archival date: 2020-07-01
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