Practice-Based Psychotherapy Research
To Improve The Wellbeing Of Our Community
PPRNet Blog: April 2018
At the PPRNet conference in November 2012 over 100 psychotherapy clinicians, researchers, and educators were very keen to receive ongoing information about psychotherapy research that is practice-oriented and presented in an easily readable format. And so the PPRNet Blog was born.
About once a month I will review and summarize two or three published psychotherapy research articles. As part of the summary, I will highlight the practice implications of the research.
Because of copyright issues, we cannot post the full text of the articles, but we will provide a link to the abstract on the publisher's web site. I will also post the author's email address. Most authors are very happy to share their work. So if you want a copy of the article send the author an email with a request for a pdf or reprint.
At the bottom of each review you can post a comment, and comment on your colleagues' comments. I will update these as frequently as possible.
If you have ideas for an article to review or a topic you would like to see covered, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giorgio A. Tasca
Pybis, J., Saxon, D., Hill, A., & Barkham, M. (2017). The comparative effectiveness and
efficiency of cognitive behaviour therapy and generic counselling in the treatment of
depression: Evidence from the 2nd UK National Audit of psychological therapies. BMC Psychiatry, 17, 215. DOI 10.1186/s12888-017-1370-7
Over a decade ago the United Kingdom (UK) invested large sums of public dollars to fund the Increasing Access to Psychotherapy (IAPT) program. In IAPT, most patients receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as first-line treatment for depression or anxiety, and may receive generic counseling as second line treatment. One of the admirable aspects of IAPT is that the program consistently assesses outcomes, makes its data available for analyses, and publishes yearly reports on their outcomes. In this very large study, Pybis and colleagues assess whether CBT and generic counseling have different outcomes for patients with depression or anxiety. Over 33,000 patients who received treatment at one of 103 sites were in the study. Most patients (about 23,000) receiving CBT, and the others (about 10,000) receiving generic counseling. Two-thirds of the patients were female, most (84%) were white British, and the mean age was 41 (SD = 13.86). CBT focused on changing negative thoughts and behaviors in order to improve depressive symptoms. Generic counselling was harder to define, though the authors described these therapists as practicing in an integrative manner by bringing skills from training in different forms of psychotherapy. Generic counseling therapists did not focus on giving advice or opinions, but rather on helping clients understand themselves better. Pre- to post-treatment effect sizes for CBT (0.94 [0.92, 0.95]) and generic counseling (0.95 [0.92, 0.98]) were equivalent for depression outcomes. In CBT 50.4% of patients reliably improved, whereas 49.6% reliably improved if they received generic counseling. The average number of sessions attended by patients in the two treatments (CBT = 8.9 [6.34]; counseling = 7.5 [5.54]) were also equivalent. However, there were significant site effects. That is, a moderate and significant amount of patient outcomes (15%) could be accounted for by the site at which they received treatment (i.e., some sites or clinics had better outcomes than others).
Generic counseling as provided in the IAPT in the UK was as effective as structured CBT for reducing symptoms of depression. However, almost half of patients did not improve in either treatment. Generic counseling was likely a label used to describe integrative psychotherapy that followed principles from a variety of psychotherapies that were based on psychological principles. There were much larger site/clinic effects than treatment modality effects, so that clients in some clinics had better than clients who received treatment in other clinics. This is consistent with research on therapist effects that show that some therapists are more effective than others, regardless of their orientation. This research suggests that training therapists to be more effective by improving their facilitative interpersonal skills may yield better outcomes for clients.
Davis, D. E., DeBlaere, C., Owen, J., Hook, J. N., Rivera, D. P., Choe, E., . . . Placeres, V. (2018). The multicultural orientation framework: A narrative review. Psychotherapy, 55(1), 89-100.
Many therapists have better outcomes with White or European clients than clients from diverse racial or ethnic minorities, and this might be due to racial and ethnic microaggressions that sometimes occur in therapy. Microaggression refer to intentional or unintentional brief commonplace verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities that are experienced as derogatory or negative by racial and ethnic minority clients. A multicultural orientation refers to how the cultural worldviews, values, and beliefs of clients and therapists interact to co-create a relational experience in therapy. Therapist multicultural orientation has three elements. First, cultural humility, in which a therapist is able to maintain an interpersonal stance that is open to the client’s experience of cultural identity. Second, cultural opportunity, in which the therapist uses events in therapy to explore a client’s cultural identity in depth. Third, cultural comfort in which a therapist feels at ease, open, and calm with diverse clients. These elements are important in order to negotiate a therapeutic alliance (i.e. agreement on tasks and goals of therapy, and the emotional bond between client and therapist). In this narrative review, Davis and colleagues look at the small existing research on multicultural orientation and how that research can inform therapists’ practices. The authors found that in the two studies on the topic, greater therapist cultural humility was associated with better client outcomes. Several studies found that cultural humility was associated with a positive therapeutic alliance, and that therapist cultural humility was associated with fewer microaggressions as experienced by racial and ethnic minority clients. Finally, missed opportunities by therapists to explore the meaning of culture and identity were associated with negative client outcomes. Presumably, such missed opportunities meant that therapists did not recognize and repair cultural ruptures.
The research on multicultural orientation suggests several practice implications. (1) Cultural humility requires therapists to explore their automatic cultural assumptions because if they remain unexplored they may be harmful to clients. (2) Therapists should overtly discuss the importance of cultural identities with clients in order to help both therapist and client develop a more complex understanding of the issues that bring the client to therapy. (3) A strong therapeutic alliance may require the therapist to incorporate their client’s cultural worldview and perspective when conceptualizing the client’s problems. (4) Depending on the client’s cultural worldview, therapists may consult with the client’s family and/or spiritual leaders when negotiating a culturally acceptable way of addressing the client’s problems. (5) Therapists need to identify for themselves when their values conflict with those of the client, and seek consultation or supervision when they do.
Solomonov, N. & Barber, J.P. (2018). Patients’ perspectives on political self-disclosure,
the therapeutic alliance, and the infiltration of politics into the therapy room in the Trump era. Journal of Clinical Psychology, DOI: 10.1002/jclp.22609.
Most studies of psychotherapy do not take into account the current political climate, and most therapists do not think about the impact of their politics on clients. Studies have focused on the effects of large historical-political events on therapy, but mainly in terms of client reactions to the events. Such studies typically assume that therapist and client shared or agreed on perspectives of the event. However, the 2016 U.S. presidential election was extremely polarizing and may represent one of those events in which clients and therapists do not agree. What if clients and therapists disagreed about the experience of the election and its aftermath – what might be the impact on their therapeutic alliance? To what extent are polarizing politics discussed in therapy, and how are these discussions experienced by clients? Solomonov and Barber conducted a national survey among 604 psychotherapy clients from the 50 U.S. states. The mean age of the sample was 33.82 years (SD = 11.10), 57% were women, 58% were Caucasian, 48% indicated that they voted for Hilary Clinton and 32% indicated that they voted for Donald Trump. Overall, 64% of patients indicated that they had spoken about politics with the therapist (66% of Trump supporters and 70% of Clinton supporters). Among Trump supporters, 38% of clients indicated that their therapist was a Republican, whereas 35% thought their therapist was a Democrat. Among Clinton supporters, only 14% said their therapist was a Republican and 64% perceived their therapist was a Democrat. Thirty percent of clients reported that their therapist explicitly disclosed their political views, and 38% of clients reported that even though their therapist did not explicitly disclose their political views the client could easily guess the therapist’s views. Clients who believed their therapist shared their political views reported significantly higher therapeutic alliance with the therapist than those who believed their therapist did not share their views. Clients who voted for Clinton reported significant increases in expression of negative feelings from before to after the election, whereas Trump supporters did not report a significant increase in negative feelings. Neither Trump nor Clinton supporters reported an increase in positive emotions pre and post election.
About two thirds of clients in the U.S. have political discussions with their therapists, and almost half wanted to talk more about politics during sessions. Even though general self-disclosure among therapists is relatively infrequent, political self-disclosure among therapists about the 2016 U.S. election seemed to occur much more frequently. It is possible that political instability and the polarizing political climate in the U.S. may contribute to more self-disclosure of a political kind among therapists. This could have an impact on therapy. Clients who perceived their therapists to share political views reported a better therapeutic alliance than those who had divergent political views from their therapist. Similarities in values between therapist and client have long been known to be associated with the therapeutic alliance. The study demonstrates that in the current political climate in the U.S., client perceptions of shared or divergent values with therapists make their way into the therapeutic space.