Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Psychological Treatments: Putting Evidence into Practice and Practice into Evidence

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Psychological Treatments: Putting Evidence into Practice and Practice into Evidence

Article excerpt


In June 2011, the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) Board of Directors launched a task force on the evidence-based practice of psychological treatments. The purpose of this task force was to operationalize what constitutes evidence-based practice in psychological treatment, to make recommendations about how psychologists can best integrate evidence into practice, and to disseminate information to consumers about evidence-based interventions. An important impetus for this task force was the continuing and widening scientist-practitioner gap. There are both barriers and opportunities when it comes to promoting greater reliance on the scientific literature and greater uptake of empirically supported treatments among practitioners. Two main factors prevail. For one, there is considerable controversy over what constitutes best evidence. The second is that researchers often do not communicate their findings in a manner that effectively translates their results from the laboratory to the clinic. It is crucial that we not only make practice evidence-based but also make evidence practice-based. In this article, I focus on current issues and opportunities with respect to evidence-based practice and identify strategies for closing the gap between research and practice. -

Keywords: evidence-based practice, evidence-based treatment, empirically supported treatment, bridging research and practice, psychotherapy

A number of years ago, as I was heading out of the house to attend my undergraduate classes, my father said to me, "What do you have today, David?" I told him, "I have personality and motivation." "Good for you!" he said. I am fortunate to have had and continue to have a great relationship with my parents. We have a lot of fun together and my parents have always been an incredible encouragement to me. In preparing for my address, my dad - a retired minister - also provided me with some good advice: "If you don't strike oil in the first 20 minutes, stop boring."

As President of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), I have the special honour of providing an address to the membership. I intend to use this platform to share with Canadian psychologists some ideas related to evidence-based practice. Part of my presidential mandate was for CPA to develop its own position on the evidence-based practice of psychological treatments to support and guide practice as well as to inform stakeholders. Psychological health and disorders are clearly a priority for many of Canada's stakeholder groups (e.g., Mental Health Commission of Canada, Treasury Board, Public Health Agency of Canada) and their effective treatment needs to become a priority for CPA as well. When I first brought this idea to the CPA Board of Directors in March 2011, Dr. Lome Sexton, who was on the board in the portfolio of Professional Affairs, and who had just chaired a task force on prescriptive authority for psychologists, said, "And I thought prescription privileges was controversial."

To be sure, this is a sensitive topic, and I hope that I will deal with it appropriately and at least do it some justice. In his classic monograph, "Why I Don't Attend Case Conferences," Paul Meehl (1973) began by stating, "The first portion of the paper will be highly critical and aggressively polemic (If you want to shake people up, you have to raise a little hell). The second part, while not claiming grandiosely to offer a definitive solution to the problem, proposes some directions of thinking and 'experimenting' that might lead to a significant improvement over current conditions" (p. 227). Although I have no intention of raising a little hell, I would similarly like to highlight the problem and then move toward some potential - not grandious or definitive - but potential solutions.

After briefly highlighting some of the outcome data that support the idea that psychological treatments are effective for a variety of mental health problems, I would like to address the difficult fact that the empirical research is often not utilized by practitioners. …

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