Logic and reason are always my first problem solving choices. That’s why I paused after looking in the kitchen drawer where I am supposed to keep them, along with my wallet and glasses, and found it empty. When did I last have them? Not finding them there, the “search” began.
Upstairs to the bedroom to check my pants pockets. No. Downstairs to the front closet to look in my coat. No. Back upstairs to the hamper in the laundry room. No. Once more, down the stairs to the kitchen hutch. I sometimes leave them there. This time, however, no. I then headed back up the stairs to the master bathroom — my pace now a bit frantic — and rummaged through my clothing. No. They’ve gotta be on my office desk. Down two flights of stairs to the basement. Not there either.
In a fit of pique, I stormed over to the landing, and yelled at the top of my voice, “DID SOMEONE TAKE MY KEYS?” the accusation barely concealed. Although my head knew this was nuts, my heart was certain it was true. They’ve hidden them!
“No,” my family members kindly reply, then ask, “Have you lost them again?”
“Arrgh,” I mutter under my breath. And that’s when I do something that, in hindsight, make no sense. I wonder if you do the same? Namely, I start the entire search over from the beginning — pants, coat, hamper, closet, hutch, office — often completing the exact same cycle several times. Pants, coat, hamper, closet, hutch, office. Pants, coat, hamper, closet, hutch, office. Pants, coat, hamper, closet, hutch, office.
I can’t explain the compulsion, other than, by this point, I’ve generally lost my mind. More, I can’t think of anything else do. My problem: I have somewhere to go! The solution: Keep looking (and it goes without saying, of course, in the same places).
(I did eventually locate my keys. More on that in a moment)
Yesterday, I was reminded of my experience while reading a newly released study on the treatment of trauma. Bear with me as I explain. Over a decade ago, I blogged about the U.S. Veteran’s Administration spending $25,000,000 aimed at “discover[ing] the best treatments for PTSD” despite a virtual mountain of evidence showing no difference in outcome between various therapy approaches.
Since that original post, the evidence documenting equivalence between competing methods has only increased (1, 2). The data are absolutely clear. Meta-analyses of studies in which two or more approaches intended to be therapeutic are directly compared, consistently find no difference in outcome between methods – importantly, whether the treatments are designated “trauma-focused” or not. More, other highly specialized studies – known as dismantling research – fail to provide any evidence for the belief that specialized treatments contain ingredients specifically remedial to the diagnosis! And yes, that includes the ingredient most believe essential to therapeutic success in the treatment of PTSD; namely, exposure (1, 2).
The new study confirms and extends such findings. Briefly, using data drawn from 39 V.A. treatment centers, researchers examined the relationship between outcome and the degree of adoption of two so-called “evidence-based,” trauma-informed psychotherapy approaches — prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy. If method mattered, of course, then a greater degree of adoption would be associated with better results. It was not. As the authors of the study conclude, “programs that used prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy with most or all patients did not see greater reductions in PTSD or depression symptoms or alcohol use, compared with programs that did not use these evidence-based psychotherapies.”
So what happens now? If history, and my own behavior whenever I lose my keys, is any indication, we’ll start the process of looking all over again. Instead of accepting the key is not where we’ve been looking, the field will continue it’s search. After all, we have somewhere to go — and right back to the search for the next method, model, or treatment approach, we go.
It’s worse than that, actually, as looking over and again in the same place, keeps us from looking elsewhere. That’s how I generally find my keys. As simple and perhaps dumb as it sounds, I find them someplace I had not looked.
And where is the field not looking? As Norcross and Wampold point out in an article published this week, “relationships and responsiveness” are the key ingredients in successful psychological care for people who are suffering as a result of traumatic experiences, going on to say that the emphasis on model or method is actually harmful, as it “squanders a vital opportunity to identify what actually heals.”
Improving our ability to connect with and respond effectively to the diverse people we meet in therapy is the focus on Deliberate Practice Intensive, held this August in Chicago, Illinois. Unlike training in protocol-driven treatments, studies to date show learning the skills taught at the workshop result in steady improvements in clinicians’ facilitative interpersonal skills and outcomes commensurate with the rate of improvement seen in elite athletes. For more information or to register, click here.
Until next time,
Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
International Center for Clinical Excellence