The fight debate between different factons, interest groups, scholars within the field of mental health hit the pages of the Los Angeles Times this last week. At issue? Supposedly, whether the field will become “scientific” in practice or remain mired in traditions of the past. On the one side are the enthusiastic supporters of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) who claim that existing research provides overwhelming support for the use of CBT for the treatment of specific mental disorders. On the other side are traditional, humanistic, “feel-your-way-as-you-go” practitioners who emphasize quality over the quantitative.
My response? Spuds or potatoes. Said another way, I can’t see any difference between the two warring factions. Yes, research indicates the CBT works. That exact same body of literature shows overwhelmingly, however, that any and all therapeutic approaches intended to be therapeutic are effective. And yes, certainly, quality is important. The question is, however, “what counts as quality?” and more importantly, “who gets to decide?”
In the Los Angeles Times article, I offer a third way; what has loosely been termed, “practice-based evidence.” The bottom line? Practitioners must seek and obtain valid, reliable, and ongoing feedback from consumers regarding the quality and effectiveness of the services they offer. After all, what person following unsuccessful treatment would say, “well, at least I got CBT!” or, “I’m sure glad I got the quality treatment.”