If you read a research journal, attend a continuing education event, or examine the syllabus from any graduate school course, you’re likely to conclude: (1) diagnosis; (2) treatment methods; and perhaps (3) the brain. As I’ve blogged about previously, the brain is currently a hot topic in our field.
Ask clinicians, however, and you hear something entirely different. That’s exactly what Giorgio Taska and colleagues did, publishing their results in a recent article in the journal, Psychotherapy. Here’s what they found.
Regardless of age or theoretical orientation, the top three topics of interest among practicing clinicians were: (1) the therapeutic relationship; (2) therapist factors; and (3) professional development.
(Cartoon used with permission from www.psychotherapy.net)
Let’s consider each one in turn.
Number one: the therapeutic relationship. Honestly, when was the last time you attended a workshop focused solely on improving your ability to connect with, engage, understand, and relate to your clients? The near complete absence of such offering is curious, isn’t it? Especially when you consider that the quality of the therapeutic bond is the single best predictor of treatment outcome, the most evidence-based principle in the literature!
Paradoxically, research shows that therapists who are able to solicit negative feedback about the alliance early in the treatment process have better outcomes in the end. Turns out, soliciting such feedback and using it to strengthen the working relationship is a skill fewclinicians–despite their beliefs to the contrary–possess.
There’s a simple solution: download and begin using the Session Rating Scale, a simple, four-item alliance measure designed to be administered at the end of each session. Multiple, randomized clinical trials now show that formally seeking client feedback not only improves outcome but decreases both drop out and deterioration rates. Whether you’ve tried to use the scale or not, you can learn how to improve your skills in the comfort of your own home by joining our upcoming Spring webinar series. And yes, CE’s are available!
Number two: therapist factors. In other words, you!
Some time ago, veteran psychotherapy researcher Sol Garfield–one of the editors of the prestigious Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change–called the therapist the “neglected variable” in psychotherapy research. Available evidence documents that the clinician doing the therapy contributes 5 to 9 times more to outcome than the method used. What makes some more effective than others? Recent research by Singapore-based psychologist Daryl Chow shows that the best invest 4.5 more hours outside of work engaged in activities specifically aimed at improving their performance than their average counterparts–an process known as deliberate practice.
Which brings us to topic number three: professional development.
Large, multinational studies document the central importance that professional development plays in the identity and satisfaction of clinicians. And yet, as I reviewed here on this blog not long ago, “the near ubiquitous mandate that clinicians attend so many hours per year of approved “CE” events in order to further their knowledge and skill base has no empirical support.” So, what does work? Together with my colleague Daryl Chow, I’ll be presenting the latest evidence-based information at the first ICCE Professional Development Intensive. The two-day event is limited to 20 practitioners. We’ll not only review the evidence, but also lay out concrete steps, and work together with each participant to develop a highly individualized professional development plan. If you’ve been monitoring the outcome and alliance of your clinical work and are interested in pushing your performance to the next level, join us in August!
OK, that’s it for now. Before I go though, let me ask if you can guess the topics of least interest to practitioners identified in the study mentioned earlier?
PLEASE post your comments below!