The School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj at Babeş-Bolyai University: Tradition-Excellence-Honor

Since the autumn of 2011, under the conditions of the new law on national education, the Chair established in 2007 has been reorganized as a Department. Having an innovative departmental structure right under the old title of Chair, practically the structure remained similar.

1. Where did we start from?

The School of Psychology in Cluj was formally established with the creation of the University of Dacia Superiore in Cluj, in 1919, being thus one of the founding disciplines of the University which today is called Babeş-Bolyai University (UBB). The one who initiated the establishment of the Chair of Psychology was Florian Ştefănescu Goangă, a student of W. Wundt in Leipzig, Germany, who in 1922 also established the first Institute of Experimental, Comparative and Applied Psychology in Romania. The tradition of psychology in Cluj was interrupted, as in the whole country, between 1977-1989 as a result of the communist directives which considered, simply put, that in the formation of the new man (the communist), not the psychologists, but the experienced workers have the fundamental role (training in psychology being thus forbidden so as not to interfere with the new principles of formation of the new man). After the anti-communist revolution of 1989, psychological education was resumed throughout the country, including Cluj-Napoca, and the Chairs of Psychology were re-established. The Babeş-Bolyai University (UBB) and the School of Psychology in Cluj have not had a tradition of excellence in the field of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, despite this being the most representative domain in psychology, in which the number of professionals is concerned, as well as the social prototype of psychology and the main motivation of those who choose to study it. The explanation of this phenomenon is complex, and it has to do first and foremost with the requirements of the field regarding infrastructure (e.g., research and practice equipment/instruments and adequate space are very expensive) and the clinical training of professionals (a university degree in psychology is insufficient for practicing in this field; a minimum of 4 years of postgraduate training is required), both difficult to accomplish during the communist regime. Nowadays, the development of psychology in fields of specialization (eg clinical, educational, work-organizational, national security) and especially the emergence in Romania of the independent professions of clinical psychologist, psychological counselor and / or psychotherapist, have required, in order to remains consistent with international norms and practices and to seriously represent this field, the emergence of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy; this is the international custom in the field and we believe that this is normal to happen today in the country as well.

2. What path did we choose?

Immediately after the revolution, understanding the need for the development of such a school, to connect us to international standards, I have decided (“Aaron T. Beck” Professor, Ph.D., Daniel DAVID) to complete a postdoctoral program in SUA, at the SUNY Binghamton, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Albert Ellis Institute, where I had direct contact and training in the most recent developments in the clinical domain and the field of psychotherapy, as these institutions are major actors in clinical psychology and evidence based psychotherapy; after completing the training programs, I worked for a long time in this institution to understand the institutional performance mechanisms that guide their teaching, research and service activities. After returning to Romania, building on the experimental tradition of the School of Psychology in Cluj, (e.g., Goangă, Mărgineanu, Roşca etc.), I, along with my colleagues, have initiated a Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy School, based on rigorous experimental foundations, and aligned to international standards (see here for details).

3. Where we arrived?

3.1. Creating Institutional Mechanisms. Today the School of of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj is part of the international “evidence-based practice” and “scientist-practitioner paradigm” movement and presents itself as a prestigious School, with a complex organization in a Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy:

At the didactic level, we serve the “clinical” curriculum of specialization in psychology (bachelor’s degree) and we have developed the Master’s program in Clinical Psychology, Psychological Counseling and Psychotherapy, organized after the Bologna model and professionally accredited by ARACIS (national agency for accrediting academic programs) and Romanian College of Psychologists, which ensures the direct insertion of graduates on the labor market (clinical psychology and psychotherapy being liberal professions). We also developed a Doctoral School called Evidence-Based Assessment and Psychological Interventions.

At the research level, we founded in 2003/2004 the International Institute for the Advanced Studies of Psychotherapy and Applied Mental Health; The institute is founded by UBB in collaboration with the Albert Ellis Institute in the USA. It is accredited by the National Council for Scientific Research in Higher Education (CNCSIS) and integrated into prestigious international networks, being the most representative Institute in this field in Central and Eastern Europe. It brings together as members, professors from the US National Academy of Sciences, prestigious universities (e.g., Columbia University, Harvard Medical School, Pennsylvania University) and / or included in Highly Cited Researchers (Thomson-ISI). The Institute developed in Romania the first Postdoctoral Program in the field (Evidence-Based Psychotherapies), being professionally accredited by both the Romanian College of Psychologists and the Romanian College of Physicians.

At the level of innovative professional services, we created the “Babes-Bolyai – PsyTech” Psychological Clinic (PsyTech Clinic), the first psychological university clinic in our country, which offers psychological services to the community and which carries out both a part of the specialized practice of our students and certain advanced research activities (applied research-development- innovation).

At a professional level, we initiated the establishment of the Association of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies in Romania around the research and teaching components already existing in Cluj-Napoca, an Association that soon became a member of the European Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies and the only training center in the field of Eastern and Central Europe recognized by the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, SUA and Albert Ellis Institute, SUA .

According to the international customs of prestigious universities, the “School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj” has established its identification elements (e.g., logo, “hymn”, badge, color), elements that individualize it and that coagulate the professional group for teaching, research and performance services.

The achievements of this School are also expressed with international impact through the Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, published by the International Institute for the Advanced Studies of Psychotherapy and Applied Mental Health. The journal publishes only original quality contributions in the field of clinical psychology and psychotherapy, with an emphasis on the line of cognitive sciences, after a rigorous “peer-review” process (e.g., the acceptance rate of manuscripts submitted for publication in 2006 was 45%), in accordance with the publication standards of the American Psychological Association. The journal’s board is made up of prestigious personalities from around the world: members of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, top universities (e.g., Columbia University, Harvard Medical School, Pennsylvania University, etc.) and researchers who are part of the Highly Cited Researchers (Thomson-ISI) category. The journal has quickly established itself nationally (category A at CNCSIS) and internationally (indexed in abstract in international databases known in the field: PsycINFO and International Bibliography of Social Sciences, and full text in EBSCO and ProQuest), recently being indexed and by Thomson ISI / Social Science Citation Index. It is the only journal of its kind in Eastern and Central Europe indexed by ISI-Web of Science, being a platform for the international promotion of original and quality research in the field, thus transforming the School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj into an active actor in the international research.

3.2. Human Resource. Gradually, a group of professionals (e.g., research assistants, researchers, postdoctoral fellows, teachers) coagulated around the institutions created and mentioned above, which today constitutes the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, a high-performance team dedicated to the development and promotion of the School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj. The funds attracted by this team to UBB, through national and international competition, exceed 1,500,000 Euros in the beginning period (2007-2008), funds invested in the research infrastructure of UBB.

Professional and psycho-moral profile that we prefer to those who want to join our team is characterized by:
(1) Advanced scientific knowledge / advanced research methods;
(2) Special motivation, pleasure and attraction to contribute to the progress of knowledge, doubled by availability to effort and work;
(3) Ethical and professional behavior in general, and in research / teaching / psychological and / or administrative services in particular (e.g., ethical behavior must be not only individual but also social, proactive, with rejection of imposture and protection of the field);
(4) Leadership / efficient management of activities, with entrepreneurial elements;
(5) Communication and interpersonal skills in general, and in the work team in particular (e.g., generosity / altruism, calm and assertiveness, supportive interaction style, but competitive at the same time, etc.);
(6) A rational mental style characterized by: (a) intelligent, creative, flexible, non-absolutist, optimistic and skeptical thinking at the same time (b) tolerance of frustration, (c) non-catastrophic and (d) nuanced assessments, non-global.

3.3. Areas of Excellence. Currently, the School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj is the most representative and impactful at the national level, giving Babeş-Bolyai University a competitive advantage in this field. It has recently been declared a “School of Excellence in Research”, along with 7 more (6 in the field of exact sciences and nature and another in the socio-human field) (details). In addition, there are several fundamental areas in which the School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj is an international leader, which ensures an international competitive advantage of Babeş-Bolyai University, which it represents. hese achievements are supported by complex scientometric analyzes published in the European Psychologist (David et al., 2003) and by the Ad-Astra Association of Romanian Researches. We briefly present these areas of excellence:

Areas of excellence that ensure a competitive advantage for UBB internationally:

  • Using Virtual Reality – Virtual Classroom – in scientifically validated psychotherapy of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Through a partnership with the Institute for Creative Technology (Dr. Albert Rizzo), University of Southern California, USA, our Institute is the first in the world to apply and experimentally test this treatment. At the moment we have a “Virtual Reality Psychotherapy and Robotherapy Platform“, the only one in Romania and one of the most competitive internationally.

Areas of excellence that ensure a competitive advantage for UBB at European level:

  • Development and testing of clinical guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment – recently, in the context of virtual reality – of mental disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, ADHD, sexual disorders, eating disorders and obesity) which are simultaneously investigated at the output level ( efficacy / effectiveness), mechanism of change (theory of change) and feasibility (cost-effectiveness). As a sign of international recognition of the contribution of the School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj, I was invited in 2004 (“Aaron T. Beck” Professor, Ph.D., Daniel DAVID) as “Guest Editor” to develop a special issue of the influential Journal of Clinical Psychology in which to present our vision of the clinical field.

Areas of excellence that ensure a competitive advantage for UBB at the national level:

  • Evidence-based assessment – children, adolescents, adults, the elderly;
  • Evidence-based psychotherapy – children, adolescents, adults, the elderly;
  • The use of virtual reality in psychotherapeutic treatment – children, adolescents, adults, the elderly.

3.4. We further present some relevant papers of the School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj (current team), indexed by ISI, which ensures its visibility and international impact (for more recent scientific contributions see the CV of each member of the School):

  • David, D., Lynn, S., & Ellis, A. (2010). Rational and irrational beliefs in human functioning and disturbances. London: Oxford University Press.
  • David, D. (2003). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT); The view of a cognitive psychologist. In W. Dryden (Ed.). Theoretical developments in REBT. London:Brunner/Routledge.
  • David, D., Brown, R., Pojoga, C., & David, A. (2000). The impact of posthypnotic amnesia and intentional forgetting on implicit and explicit memory. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 48 267-289.
  • David, D., & Brown, R. (2002). Suggestibility and negative priming: Two replications studies. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 50, 215-280.
  • Montgomery, G.H., David, D., Winkel, G., Silverstein, J. H., & Bovbjerg, D. H. (2002). The effectiveness of adjunctive hypnosis with surgical patients: A meta-analysis. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 94, 1639-1645.
  • David, D., Moore, M., & Domuta, A. (2002). Romanian psychology on the international psychological scene: A preliminary critical and empirical approach. European Psychologist, 7, 153-160.
  • David, D., & Brown, R. (2003). The impact of different directed forgetting instructions on implicit and explicit memory: New evidence from a modified process dissociation procedure. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56A, 211-233.
  • Montgomery, G. H., David, D., Goldfarb, A. B., Silverstein, J. H., Weltz, C. R., Birk, J. S., & Bovbjerg, D. H. (2003). Sources of anticipatory distress among breast surgery patients. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 26, 153-163.
  • Montgomery, G., David, D., et al.. (2003). Is hoping the same as expecting? Discrimination between hopes and response expectancies for nonvolitioanl outcomes. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 399-409.
  • David, D. (2004). Special issue on the cognitive revolution in clinical psychology: Beyond the behavioral approach-Introductory remarks. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 4, 351-353.
  • David, D. (2004). Special issue on the cognitive revolution in clinical psychology: Beyond the behavioral approach-Conclusions: Toward and evidence-based psychology and psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 4, 447-451.
  • David, D., Montgomery, G. et al.. (2004). Discriminatiopn between hopes and expectancies for nonvolitional outcomes. Psychological phenomenon or artefact? Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 1945-1952.
  • David, D., Schnur, J., şi Birk, J. (2004). Functional and dysfunctional emotions in Ellis’ cognitive theory; An empirical analysis. Cognition and Emotion, 18, 869-880.
  • David, D., McMahon, J., & Macavei, B. (2005). Cognitive Restructuring and Mental Contamination: An empirical Re-conceptualization. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 23, 21-56.
  • David, D., Montgomery, GH., Macavei, B., & Bovbjerg, D. (2005). An empirical investigation of Albert Ellis’ binary model of distress. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61, 499-516.
  • David, D., Szentagotai, A., Kallay, E., & Macavei, B. (2005). A synopsis of rational-emotive behaviour therapy; Fundamental and applied research. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 23, 175-221.
  • David, D., & Szentagotai, A. (2006). Cognition in cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies; toward an intergrative model. Clinical Psychology Review., 26, 284-298.
  • David, D., Montgomery, GH., & Bovbjerg, DH. (2006). Relations between coping responses and optimism-pessimism in predicting anticipatory psychological distress in surgical breast cancer patients Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 203-213.
  • Montgomery, GH., Bovbjerg, DH., Schnur, JB., David, D. et al. (2007). A randomized clinical trial of a brief hypnosis intervention to control side effects in breast surgery patients. Journal of National Cancer Institute (impact factor aprox. 16), 99, 1304-1312.
  • David, D. (2008). Duplication spreads the word to a wider audience. NATURE, 452 (7183): 29-29 Mar 6.
  • David, D., Szentagotai, A., Lupu, V., Cosman, D. (2008). Rational emotive behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and medication in the treatment of major depressive disorder: A randomized clinical trial, posttreatment outcomes, and six-month follow-up. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64, 728-746.
  • Schnur, J.B., Bovbjerg, D., David, D. et al. (2008). Hypnosis decrease presurgical distress in excisional breast biopsy patients. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 106, 440-444.
  • Sava, F., Yates, B., Lupu, V., Szentagotai, A., & David, D. (2009). Cost-effctiveness and cost-utility of cognitive therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, and fluoxetine (Prozac) in treating depression: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 36-52.
  • Rescorla, L., Achenbach, T. M., Ivanova, M., Dumenci, L., A., Almqvist, F., Bilenberg, N., Bird, H., Broberg, A., Domuta, A., Döpfner, M., Erol, N., Forns, M., Hannesdomir, H., Kanbayashi, Y., Lambert, M., Leung, P., Minaci, A., Mulatu, M., Novik, T., Oh, K., Roussos, A., Sawyer, M., Simsek, Z., Steinhausen, H. C., Weintraub, S., Winkler-Metzke, Ch., Wolanczyk, T., Zilber, N., Zukauskiene, R., & Verhulst, F., (2007). Epidemiological Comparisons of Problems and Positive Qualities Reported by Adolescents in 24 Cultures. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 2, 351-358.
  • Rescorla, L., Achenbach, T. M., Ginzburg, S., Ivanova, M., Dumenci, L., A., Almqvist, F., Bathiche, M., Bilenberg, N., Bird, H., Domuta, A., Erol, N., Fombonne, E., Fonseca, A., Frigerio, A., Kanbayashi, Y., Lambert, M., Liu, X., Leung, P., Minaei, A., Roussos, A., Simsek, Z., Weintraub,, S., Wolanczyk, T., Zubrick, S., Zukauskiene, R., Verhulst, F. (2007). Consistency of Teachers-Reported Problem for Students in 21 Cultures. School Psychology Review, 36, 1, 91-110.
  • Opriş, D., & Macavei, B. (2005). The distinction between functional and dysfunctional negative emotions; An empirical analysis. Journal of Cognitive and Bahavioral Psychotherapies, 5, 181-195.
  • Popescu, O., & Misevic, G.N. (1997). Self-recognition by proteoglycans, Nature, 386, 231-232.
  • Dammer, U., Popescu, O., Wagner, P., Anselmetti, D., Güntherodt, H.-J., & Misevic, G.N. (1995). Binding strength between cell adhesion proteoglycans measured by atomic force microscopy, Science, 267, 1173-1175.

4. Where are we going?

Although it has a short history, the School of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy in Cluj is a success story. It was established through a successful integration of the existing experimental tradition in the Psychology School in Cluj psychology, with new trends at the international level, through the work and seriousness of a group of professionals who did not give in to the Romanian motto “let it works anyway” but wanted to be treated and feel at UBB as they were when they went to prestigious universities around the world, following the motto “I would rather die of thirst than drink from the cup of mediocrity“; we do not accept limits in the search for knowledge through scientific research in professional ethics. Basically, the appearance of this School managed to move the Romanian Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy from the ’70s (e.g., in which the projective tests were the “golden standard” and in which there were no ISI publications of Romanian authors in the country in the field) into the current international reality.

We hope that this School around the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy will be the beginning of a tradition of excellence at UBB, which will provide a competitive advantage to UBB in this field, both nationally and on certain topics (e.g., virtual reality in psychotherapy), internationally.

Consolidating, developing and disseminating our teaching, research and professional achievements and concerns in the international area of education and research are our top priorities, along with our continued efforts to increase the impact factor of the Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies!

“Aaron T. Beck” Professor, Ph.D., Daniel DAVID, Founder and Head of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy (2007-2012)