Research

Psychotherapy Research: West to East
L -R John Ogrodniczk, Anthony Joyce, Louis Castonguay,
George Tasca, Molyn Leszcz, Jackie Kinley, Jane Evans

The Psychotherapy Practice Research Network

Practice research networks represent an important approach to participatory research, in which clinicians help to define and pursue a research agenda that is relevant to their practice. Clinical trials tend to be conducted with narrowly defined patient populations in health sciences centres. The results of these trials are often slow to translate into effective clinical practice, which is often characterized by greater complexity and comorbidity. The driving force behind practice research networks is to create a two-way knowledge exchange between researchers and the intended users of the research so that:

1) clinicians can guide the development of research that is relevant to the complexities of their practices

2) clinical research conducted in health sciences centres can be translated more directly to clinical practice.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a body of knowledge that can be drawn upon to improve clinical practice to the benefit of patients. There is a long history of practice-based research networks for family medicine in the US. The National Institute of Health in its Roadmap document and the American Academy of Family Physicians have supported the development of these practice research networks.

The newly formed Psychotherapy Practice Research Network (PPRN) in Ottawa encompasses clinicians across Canada that are working to develop research designed with the understanding that most mental health clinicians treat patients with multiple comorbid mental disorders that can not be treated easily with single time-limited manualized psychotherapies typical of much of the extant psychotherapy research literature. The common view among psychotherapists is that randomized controlled trials exclude participants with comorbidities. There is debate about this, but nevertheless this view is a significant obstacle to knowledge translation, with the end result that patients with mental health and addictions problems do not benefit fully from nearly 60 years of psychotherapy research. Further, patients experience cultural, financial, and stigma-related barriers to treatment that need to be addressed. The PPRN will embark upon a program of research that will close the gap in knowledge translation by involving practitioners in the development and implementation of this research at the ground level.

The Association for Group Training, Group Practice and Group Facilitation (CGPA) has become a stakeholder and partner in developing the PPRN. Research, education, and policy are three areas addressed by the PPRN that are of relevance to Canadian group psychotherapists and their patients. 1) Research. The research generated from the PPRN will be informed directly by psychotherapists, so that the complexities of their practices will be reflected in the research agenda, design, and questions. Therefore, the research results will be directly applicable to patients, and more easily translated into daily practice. 2) Education. The PPRN will be a participatory hands-on learning experience for psychotherapists. Such educational approaches are known to be more effective in helping learners retain and use knowledge. The learning will take the form of: (a) knowledge exchange about empirically validated treatments and processes, (b) experiential learning about research procedures and protocols, and (c) direct and valid individualized feedback on outcomes and processes based on the information collected in the therapist’s practice. 3) Policy. Research outcomes regarding effective psychotherapy processes and practices will be communicated to policy-making groups in order to influence standards of practice for psychotherapy. Psychotherapy practice guidelines and training guidelines should be influenced by high quality research conducted in clinical settings with patients who have complex comorbid health, mental health, and addictions problems.

The time is right for such an innovative approach to psychotherapy research in Canada given CIHR’s emphasis on knowledge translation and exchange, and on patient-oriented research, which places a premium on high impact research relevant to real-world clinical settings.

Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D., C.Psych., FCGPA

Research Chair in Psychotherapy Research,

Associate Professor in Psychiatry,

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Medicine and The Ottawa Hospital

501 Smyth Road, Box 400, Ottawa, ON Canada  K1H 8L6

Ph: 1-613-737-8035; Fax: 1-613-737-8085

Email: gtasca@toh.on.ca

Jacqueline L. Kinley MD FRCPC Diplomat ABPN

President, CGPA

Director, Mental Health Day Treatment Program

Assistant Professor, Dalhousie University

QE II Health Sciences Centre

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