Professional books and journals fill my bookshelves and are stacked around my desk. I am, and always have been, a voracious–even compulsive–reader. In the last couple of years, the volume of material has only increased–exponentially so, if I include digital items saved to my desktop.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit: it’s hard keeping up. But that’s really not my problem.
The issue is: I feel like I’m drowning in trivia and the trivial.
How about you? When was the last time you read something truly meaningful?
Increasingly, research journals are filled with studies that are either so narrow in focus as to defy any real world application, or simply revisit the same questions over and over. Just how many more studies does the field need, for example, on cognitive-behavioral therapy? A Google Scholar search on the subject, crossed with the term, “randomized controlled trial,” returns over a million hits!
In terms of translating research into practice, here’s a sample of articles sure to appeal to almost every clinician (and I didn’t have to “dig deep” to find these, by the way, as all were in journals neatly stacked on my desk):
- Psychodynamizing and Existentializing Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions
- How extraverted is firstname.lastname@example.org? Inferring personality from e-mail addresses
- Satisfaction with life moderates the indirect effect of pain intensity on pain interference through pain catastrophizing
I didn’t make these up. All are real articles in real research journals. If you don’t believe me, click on the links to see for yourself.
Neologisms (#1) and cuteness (#2) aside, their titles often belie a mind-numbing banality in both scope and findings. Take the last study. Can you guess what its about? Satisfaction with life moderates the indirect effect of pain intensity on pain interference through pain catastrophizing. And what findings do you think the authors spent 10 double-column, 10-point font pages relating in one of psychology’s most prestigious journals?
“Satisfaction with life appears to buffer the effect of pain.”
Hmm. Not particularly earth-shattering. And, based on these results, what do the authors recommend? Of course: “Further evaluation in longitudinal and interventional studies” (I foresee another study on cognitive-behavioral therapy in the near future).
Purpose, belonging, sense-making, transcendence, and growth are the foundations of meaning. Most of what shows up in my inbox, is taught at professionals workshops, and appears in scholarly publications has, or engenders, none of those qualities. The cost to our field and the people we serve is staggering. Worldwide, rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide continue to rise. At the same time, fewer and fewer people are seeking psychotherapy–34% fewer according to the latest findings. It is important to note that even when extensive efforts are made, and significant financial support is provided, 85% of those who could benefit choose not go. I just can’t believe its because therapists haven’t attended the latest “amygdala retraining” workshop, or do not know how to “psychodynamize” their cognitive-behavioral interventions.
This last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ben Caldwell. His book, Saving Psychotherapy: Bringing the Talking Cure Back from the Brink, speaks directly to the challenges facing the field as well as steps every clinician can take to restore meaning to both research and practice. Take listen, and then be sure to leave a comment.
Until next time,
Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
Director, International Center for Clinical Excellence