The Psychological Profile of Psychotherapists. Preliminary Results in Investigating the Predictors of Psychotherapists' Performance

Article excerpt

Abstract

Apparently, it is neither the type nor the length of education or psychotherapists' clinical experience that are responsible for their performance. The present study is part of a larger research which aims at identifying the variables (emotions, cognitions, behaviors, personality traits) that predict psychotherapists' performance in therapy. The main objective of this study is to assess psychotherapists' personal variables and compare them with those identified in the general population. The study included 126 psychotherapists under supervision (psychologists and psychiatrists) in two Cognitive Behavioral Therapy training programs (Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy). During the final stage of the training program, the psychotherapists under supervision filled in self-reported check-lists; psychotherapists' personal variables were analyzed and compared with those of 122 participants from the general population. The possible implications of the results in predicting psychotherapists' performance and their impact on psychotherapy training programs are also taken into consideration.

Key words: psychotherapists' performance, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, psychotherapists' personal variables.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

Recent studies (Christensen & Jacobson, 1994; Dawes, 1994) indicate that there are no significant differences between professionals and paraprofessionals in psychopathology. On the other hand, there are no significant differences between professionals with long or brief training when the efficiency of treating emotional disorders is taken into consideration. Moreover, clinical experience doesn't seem to improve psychotherapists' performance (Garb, 1998). Inevitably, the existing literature leads us to an honest reflection: if, at least not apparently, neither the type nor the length of studies or the clinical experience is responsible for the clinical performance, than what is? Systematic research that explicitly approaches psychotherapists' performance predictors is not well-articulated yet. Also, there are no systematic studies concerning the relationship between psychotherapists' psychopathology and their performance. The prevalence and incidence of psychological disorders seem similar among psychopathologists and in the general population. Is this fact relevant? The psychotherapists referred to in several studies (Deacon et al., 2000; Pope & Tabachnick, 1994) indicated marital problems (66%), depressive episodes (45%), anxiety disorders (31%), problems with their own children (35%), divorce (29%), life stress (27%), sexual difficulties (12.6%), countertransference (14.4%) etc. Is psychotherapists' performance affected by this? Is it important for psychotherapists to be not only skilled but also psychologically healthy in order to assist their clients?

Most of the research concerning psychotherapists' performance has focused on such matters as demographic variables (e.g., age, sex, ethnicity or religion), psychotherapists' theoretical orientation, and personality traits or aspects characteristics of their experience (e.g. years of practice). The results are not conclusive; most of the differences identified between psychotherapists are either not significant or signific ant only under strict circumstances (Beck, 1988; Beutler et al., 1994; Huppert et al., 2001; Greenspan & Kulish, 1985).

Research addressing the questions stated above might allow for the identification of some "key" variables responsible for psychotherapists' performance, variables that might suggest the need for adapting the psychotherapists training programs, by including or developing training levels that address specific aspects that predict psychotherapists' performance.

There is an unanimous consensus over the fact that psychotherapists' performance can be explained by several factors; but the precise factors, their nature and impact is still unknown (see Najavits, 1997). …

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