The Psychotherapy Practice Research Network (PPRNet) blog began in 2013 in response to psychotherapy clinicians, researchers, and educators who expressed interest in receiving regular information about current practice-oriented psychotherapy research. It offers a monthly summary of two or three published psychotherapy research articles. Each summary is authored by Dr. Tasca and highlights practice implications of selected articles. Past blogs are available in the archives. This content is only available in English.
…I blog about psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder, capacity to metnalize and therapy resistant depression, and negative effects of psychotherapy
Type of Research
- ALL Topics (clear)
- Alliance and Therapeutic Relationship
- Anxiety Disorders
- Attendance, Attrition, and Drop-Out
- Client Factors
- Client Preferences
- Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Combination Therapy
- Common Factors
- Depression and Depressive Symptoms
- Efficacy of Treatments
- Feedback and Progress Monitoring
- Group Psychotherapy
- Illness and Medical Comorbidities
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
- Long-term Outcomes
- Neuroscience and Brain
- Outcomes and Deterioration
- Personality Disorders
- Placebo Effect
- Practice-Based Research and Practice Research Networks
- Psychodynamic Therapy (PDT)
- Resistance and Reactance
- Self-Reflection and Awareness
- Suicide and Crisis Intervention
- Therapist Factors
- Transference and Countertransference
- Trauma and/or PTSD
- Treatment Length and Frequency
Therapist Racial Microaggression and the Therapeutic Alliance
Owen, J., Tao, K. W., Imel, Z. E., Wampold, B. E., & Rodolfa, E. (2014). Addressing racial and ethnic microaggressions in therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(4), 283–290.
Overt forms of racism and prejudice still occur in society, and less overt forms are likely more prevalent. Microaggression are those less overt forms of racism and prejudice that may include direct and indirect insults, slights, and discriminatory messages. Specific types of microaggression are: microinvalidations (e.g., denying that racism exists), microassaults (e.g., direct racism but done in private), and microinsults (e.g., believing a group’s cultural norms are pathological). Microaggression are by definition ambiguous and subtle, and they may target culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other group identities. Microaggressions are associated with psychological distress in the recipient. Microaggressions can also occur in therapy if a patient perceives a therapist’s dismissing or negating messages about the patient’s culture, or if a therapist engages in culturally inappropriate interventions. Microaggressions represent a special type of therapeutic alliance rupture that could lead to negative patient outcomes. It is also possible that therapists and clients who address microaggressions after they occur are capable of repairing the alliance rupture and moving forward with a stronger relationship. However, there is very little research of the impact of client perceived microaggressions on the therapeutic alliance. In this unique study, Owen and colleagues asked 120 racial and ethnic minority university counselling centre patients treated by 33 different therapists (23 of whom were White) to rate their experience microaggressions, to indicate if the microaggression was discussed, and to rate the therapeutic alliance. In total, 53.3% of patients experienced a microaggression in therapy, and of those patients, 68.4% were treated by a racial or ethnic minority therapist. Clients who reported fewer microaggressions also reported stronger therapeutic alliances (r = .28, p = .01). Of the patients who reported a microaggression, only 24% (13 patients) reported that the microaggression was discussed by the therapist. Of these 13 patients, almost all (12 patients) reported that the discussion was successful. Therapist and patient dyads who successfully discussed the microaggression: (1) had alliance scores comparable to patients who did not experience a microaggression, and (2) had alliance scores that were significantly higher than dyads who experienced but did not discuss the microaggression.
Microaggressions appear to be ubiquitous in daily life and in psychotherapy – no therapist is immune. More than 53% of patients in this study reported a microaggression, despite what was likely their therapists’ good intentions. Microaggression are a special case of therapeutic alliance ruptures, which are known to be associated with poor patient outcomes. Therapists must develop a strong multicultural orientation and take a culturally humble stance with clients from a different culture or group. This involves therapists being attuned to the possibility of committing a microaggression, inviting patients to alert the therapist should a microaggression occur, and being open to clarifying misunderstandings and owning missteps.
Mental Health Disorders Increase Health Care Utilization in Adults with Chronic Disease
Mental Health Disorders Increase Health Care Utilization in Adults with Chronic Disease
Sporinova B, Manns B, Tonelli M, et al. (2019). Association of mental health disorders with health care utilization and costs among adults with chronic cisease. JAMA Network Open. Published online: 2(8):e199910. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.9910
Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic kidney disease are common and represent a major burden on the individual and on society. So much so that chronic diseases represent about 60% of global disease burden. There is also a documented association between mental and physical health, such that mortality in cancer, diabetes, and following a heart attack is significantly higher in those with depression. The cost of chronic disease to the Canadian economy represents about 60% of the annual health care budget, and depression alone has a $32.3 billion impact on the Canadian economy. In this economic study, Sporinova and colleagues sought to quantify the impact of having a mental disorder on health care utilization and cost for those with chronic diseases. The study used a large data base of adults from Alberta, Canada who had at least one chronic disease including asthma, COPD, heart failure, myocardial infarction, diabetes, epilepsy, and chronic kidney disease. Mental disorders were defined as a concurrent diagnosis of depression, schizophrenia, or substance use disorder. Factors like sex, income, and rural residency were controlled in the analyses. Of the cohort with a chronic illness, 15.8% had a mental disorder, with depression as the most common mental disorder at 11.2%. People with chronic illness and a mental disorder tended to be younger, women, with a lower socio-economic status, and they tended to die at a higher rate during the study period. The mean total 3-year health costs of those with a chronic illness was $20,210 (95% CI: $19,674, $20,750) Canadian dollars, whereas for those with a concurrent mental disorder the cost was significantly higher at $38,250 (95% CI: $36,476, $39,935). Higher costs were driven by greater hospitalizations, prescription drug use, and physician visits. Costs were higher for older people, and for those with more than one mental disorder.
The results clearly indicated that an important proportion of those with chronic illnesses were also diagnosed with a mental disorder. Further, a diagnosis of a mental disorder drove up the burden of the chronic illness significantly, both for the individual and for the health care system. Past research indicated improved medical outcomes when treating depression in medical patients. And so, although the physical symptoms of chronic illness may appear prominent, clinicians must treat mental health problems when they exist concurrently, if they want to improve patient medical and mental health outcomes.
Therapeutic Alliance in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy
Karver, M. S., De Nadai, A. S., Monahan, M., & Shirk, S. R. (2018). Meta-analysis of the prospective relation between alliance and outcome in child and adolescent psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 341-355.
Over the past decades there has been increasing research on the efficacy of psychotherapy for children and adolescents, but outcomes have not always been positive. Treatment of children and adolescents comes with challenges that are unique from those experienced in therapy of adults. For example, unlike most adults, children and adolescents may not be the ones to choose to attend therapy - that decision is often made by adults in their lives. Furthermore, psychotherapists must also develop and maintain a collaborative relationship with parents, on whom the therapist and child/adolescent rely in order to be able to engage in treatment. Because of the unique characteristics of working with children and adolescents, negotiating, developing, maintaining, and repairing the therapeutic alliance is potentially complex. The therapeutic alliance is defined as an agreement on tasks of therapy, an agreement on goals of therapy, and the relational bond between therapist and client. In this meta-analysis, Karver and colleagues reviewed 28 studies of psychotherapy with children and adolescents. The mean age was about 12 years, most children/adolescents had internalizing problems, but others had problems with externalizing behaviors, and substance abuse. Almost two thirds of the studies involved a version of behavior or cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapeutic alliance was measured from the perspective of the client, therapist, and/or the parent. The overall mean effect size of the alliance-outcome relationship was small to moderate: r = .19 (p < .01, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.13, 0.25]). Larger effect sizes were seen in those therapies of children and adolescents with internalizing disorders (r = .19), and when the therapist – parent alliance was measured and correlated with outcomes (r = .30). In other words, a positive alliance was most important for internalizing disorders, and for the relationship between therapist and parent.
The findings of this meta-analysis indicate that the therapeutic alliance, especially with the parent, is important to the outcomes of children and adolescents in psychotherapy. Clinicians should not only develop an alliance with the youth, but also with the parent/caregiver. Therapists should also consider measuring the alliance regularly during therapy as a means of heading off any ruptures (with the youth or the parent) that might endanger the therapy. The authors recommended using the Therapeutic Alliance Scale for Children – Revised with children/adolescents, and the Working Alliance Inventory with parents.
The Effects of Routine Outcome Monitoring
Lambert, M. J., Whipple, J. L., & Kleinstäuber, M. (2018). Collecting and delivering progress feedback: A meta-analysis of routine outcome monitoring. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 520-537.
Somewhere between 5% and 10% of adult clients in clinical trials of psychotherapy get worse, and the numbers are likely higher in regular clinical practice. In addition, some therapists are more effective than others, so that some therapists have few clients who get worse whereas others consistently have high rates of poor client outcomes. Unfortunately, therapists have a difficult time assessing their client outcomes. Many therapists are overly optimistic about their clients’ outcomes, and clinicians frequently do not identify when clients get worse. One likely reason for this erroneous assessment of client outcomes is that typically psychotherapists do not have quality information in order to make accurate decisions and predictions. Assessing client outcomes on a regular basis throughout treatment is a difficult and complicated endeavour, and one that is beyond the capacity of most people. So, like other professionals (pilots, air traffic controllers, engineers) psychotherapists can improve their predictions and decision-making if they have access to quality information about their clients’ functioning. One source of such information for psychotherapists could be from the use of routine outcome monitoring. Routine outcome monitoring involves assessing client mental health functioning with reliable psychometric scales throughout the course of treatment, and feeding this information back to therapists who can use the data to adjust what they are doing if necessary. The two most commonly used outcome monitoring tools are the Outcome Questionnaire-45 (OQ-45) which is part of the OQ Analyst Feedback System, and the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) and Session Rating Scale (SRS) which are part of the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS). In this meta-analysis, Lambert and colleagues assessed the effect of regular outcome monitoring with the OQ-45 and the ORS to improve client outcomes. In 15 studies with almost 8,500 participants, the OQ-45 outperformed treatment as usual but with a small effect (SMD = .14, 95% CI [.08, .21]). However, the positive effect of using the OQ-45 with feedback was larger for the 31.2% of clients who were not doing well in therapy (SMD = .33, 95% CI [.25, .41]). Among those studies that used the OQ standardized feedback system that provides recommendations to therapists, the effects were even larger (SMD = .49, 95% CI [.25, .73]). Similarly, in nine studies with over 2,000 participants, the effects of using the PCOMS system had a small to moderate positive effects on client outcomes (SMD = .40, 95% CI [.29, .51]).
The research evidence supports the use of routine outcome monitoring with the OQ-45 or the PCOMS to improve client outcomes. Quality information that is fed back to clinicians can compensate for the limited capacity that any clinician has to accurately detect a client that is worsening in psychotherapy. The information provided to therapists with these feedback systems can highlight potential problems in the client and identify strain in the therapeutic alliance. This information can sensitise therapists to at-risk clients and situations, and encourage therapists to adjust their interventions or interpersonal stances accordingly.
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Effects of Mental Health Interventions with Asian Americans
Huey, S. J. & Tilley, J. L. (2018). Effects of mental health interventions with Asian Americans: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86, 915-930.
Do existing mental health interventions work well for patients of Asian descent? Interventions delivered in the typical way in which they were devised may not be as effective as intended when it comes to culturally diverse groups like Asian Americans. The clinical trials in which the treatments were developed typically are almost exclusively made up of White participants, and most evidence-based treatments do not consider cultural considerations. Culturally responsive psychotherapies that are consistent with the cultural norms, values, and expectations of patients may be more effective. That is, if an evidence-based treatment is not culture specific, it may not be as effective as intended. Even when culture is taken into account in evidence-based treatments, the accommodation tends to be for African American or Hispanic/Latino patients, and not for Asian American patients. Asian American and East Asian heritage is often influenced by Confucian values that emphasize interpersonal harmony, mutual obligations, and respect for hierarchy in relationships. This may mean that patients of Asian descent may be less committed to personal choice, more attuned to others, and more socially conforming. This may lead to cultural differences in cognitive processing and emotional reactions to interpersonal contexts. In this meta-analysis, Huey and colleagues assessed if the effects of evidence-based treatments will be bigger if the treatments were specifically tailored for Asian Americans. Their review included 18 studies with 6,377 participants. Samples included Chinese Americans, Cambodian Americans, Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans, and other Asian groups. Problems treated included depression, PTSD, smoking, and other concerns. About half of the studies were of CBT, and most (91%) were culturally tailored in some way either for an Asian subgroup or tailored for minorities in general. The mean effect size for evidence-based treatments versus control groups was d = .75, SE = .14, p < .001, indicating a moderate to large effect. Treatments tailored specifically for Asian subgroups (e.g., Chinese Americans) showed the largest effects (d = 1.10), whereas treatment with no cultural tailoring or non-Asian tailoring showed the smallest effects (d = .25).
Existing psychological treatments are efficacious for Asian Americans, with moderate effects. However, treatments specifically adapted for Asian American subgroups showed the largest effects, indicating that specific cultural adaptations could substantially improve the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Asian Americans face challenges in terms of using and engaging in treatments. Developing culturally specific interventions to improve acceptability of treatment may be one way to make the most therapeutic impact on one of the largest growing racial groups in North America.
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Therapists Differ in Their Effectiveness with Racial/Ethnic Minority Clients
Hayes, J. A., Owen, J., & Bieschke, K. J. (2015). Therapist differences in symptom change with racial/ethnic minority clients. Psychotherapy, 52(3), 308-314.
There is ample research showing that therapists differ in their outcomes with clients. Some therapists consistently have better outcomes than others, and some therapists consistently have worse outcomes. One study estimated that as many as 5% of therapists are reliably harmful, with many more being neither harmful or helpful. Fortunately, there is evidence that some “super-shrink” therapists are reliably helpful. There is also research showing the existence of ethnic disparities in mental health problems and their treatment. The minority stress theory suggests that members of cultural minority groups face problems like discrimination, oppression, and prejudice that affect their mental health. When racial/ethnic minority (REM) individuals do experience mental health problems they may be reluctant to seek help from a therapist of European descent. This may be due to cultural mistrust or doubts about cultural sensitivity. Recently, writers have been discussing the importance of therapist cultural competence in treating REM clients. In this study by Hayes and colleagues, the authors looked at 36 therapists and 228 clients. Clients were students at a university counselling centre seen an average of 5.42 times, and about 65% of clients were of European descent. The therapists were in training in a doctoral counseling program, and they each treated at least 4 clients: two REM and two non-REM clients. Since each therapist had both REM and non-REM clients, the authors were able to estimate the effect of the therapist on client outcomes, and also to see if therapists differed in their ability to treat REM and non-REM clients. In this study, cultural competence was defined as differences in client outcomes within each therapist depending on client culture or race. Overall, about 39% of clients achieved reliable positive change in general symptom distress. Almost 9% of the variance in client outcome was attributable to therapists. Further, the client’s race/ethnicity explained 19% of the variance in treatment outcome attributed to therapists. In other words, which therapist a client saw had moderate impact on whether the client improved, and this was partly due to the client’s REM status.
In this sample of training therapists and student clients, some therapists were more effective than others, and some of this difference was due to the client’s racial/ethnic heritage. The results suggest that therapists’ cultural competence is a component of overall competence. The findings speak to the need for multicultural training for therapists. Some authors discuss the importance of cultural humility among psychotherapists, which is an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented rather than self-focused, and characterized by respect and lack of superiority toward a client’s cultural background and experience. Client perception of their therapist as culturally humble will improve the therapeutic alliance and the client’s outcomes.
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