Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

What our psychologists know - and some others don't

Edited by Jill Wright,

We couldn't help but be slightly proud of ourselves today, when we came across an article in one of the world's great popular magazines, Atlantic Magazine, on the blind spot that most psychologists have on the importance of data in obtaining better therapy outcomes.

Headed "What Your Therapist Doesn't Know", the article, by Seattle-based clinical psychologist Dr Tony Rousmaniere, declares that Big Data ... "could transform mental health therapy ... if only psychologists would stop ignoring it".

If you read the articles on our Web site, you'll discover that far from ignoring these crucial insights, Psychology Melbourne has based our entire practice on them.

We already know about the study from Brigham Young University, which examined the outcomes from 91 therapists and found that the highest-performing among them helped clients improve 10 times faster than the overall average ... and that other research showed that clients of the lowest-performing therapists were significantly worse off in some areas at the end of treatment. We know that, as Atlantic Magazine points out, across the field, dropout rates are estimated to be about 25 per cent or more.

We know that none of the models of psychotherapy - cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, emotion-focused therapy etc. are consistently more successful than any others - a fact acknowledged by the American Psychological Association. We know that a study aimed at improving the training of British psychotherapists in the use of CBT did not improve outcomes.

That's precisely why we developed and introduced our own training course to help our psychologists reach a peak of excellence. We concentrated on improving the critical elements of successful therapy - things like developing strong therapeutic alliances with clients, rather than psychotherapeutic method.

As the APA noted: As the APA put it, “Patient and therapist characteristics, which are not usually captured by a patient’s diagnosis or by the therapist’s use of a specific psychotherapy, affect the results.” Rousmaniere's translation summarises the inspiration for our training program. "In other words, more important than the model being used is the skill of the therapist: Can therapists engender trust and openness? Can they encourage patients to face their deepest fears? Can they treat clients with warmth and compassion while, when necessary, challenging them?"

And that isn't enough. Therapists have to go beyond their intuition in checking that their clients are actually making progress. As we've been doing for some years, we've been working with Feedback Informed Therapy to make sure that our clients stay on track to achieving their goals.

It's nice when you find acknowledgment of your work in unexpected places.

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.