Sun, 28 Nov 2021

Massachusetts [US], November 21 (ANI): According to a new study, therapists may be leading to more personalized clinical therapy practices as well as be trained to aid in increasing their therapeutic effect on their patients.

The research has been published in the 'Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology'.

"Research has tended to focus on the contributions of the patient or treatment type to therapy outcomes, which makes sense in a lot of ways, but unfortunately the therapist contribution has been somewhat neglected," said lead author Alice Coyne, now a post-doctoral researcher at Case Western Reserve University and a PhD graduate of UMass Amherst.

"Our current trainings, which are often standardized across therapists, tend not to promote consistent improvements in patient outcomes. Instead, we believe that personalizing training to therapists' unique strengths and weaknesses could enhance training outcomes down the line," she addedWorking with co-author Michael Constantino, a professor of clinical psychology and the director of the Psychotherapy Research Lab at UMass Amherst, Coyne initially conducted the research as part of her PhD dissertation, which received the 2020 dissertation award from the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration.

"Her work is the first of its kind, and it will blaze a trail in our field," Constantino predicted.

As her dissertation's first aim, Coyne was interested in testing the prediction that patients experienced a more symptomatic and functional improvement in psychotherapy when a higher-quality patient-therapist alliance existed, as well as when the patient had a more positive expectation for change.

For the second aim, Coyne was interested in seeing if these associations differed based on whom the therapist is.

"A given technique in the hands of one therapist may look very different than that same technique in the hands of another therapist," Coyne said.

"To put it simply, one therapist may use their relationship with their patients as a key means to facilitate improvement; whereas for another therapist, their relationships with patients may be less important for patient improvement than their use of other strategies, such as cultivating positive expectations for change," he addedFinally, for the third aim, Coyne looked at whether certain therapist characteristics predicted which therapists tended to use relationship and belief processes to more therapeutic benefit across their caseloads.

To test these questions, the researchers analyzed data from 212 adults who were treated by 42 psychotherapists as part of a randomized trial that compared case-assignment methods in community-based mental health care. Throughout the treatment, which varied in length and type, patients repeatedly completed surveys that measured their alliance quality with the therapist and their expectations for improvement.

Coyne and Constantino correctly hypothesized that, in general, better alliance quality and more positive outcome expectations are associated with better treatment outcomes. Also, as predicted, therapists exhibited different strengths and weaknesses in their use of relationship and belief processes.

Finally, there was preliminary support that the therapists who used the alliance most effectively to promote patient improvement are the ones "... who is humbler in assessing their own alliance-fostering abilities, the paper stated.

Humbly knowing thyself may be one helpful takeaway from the research. "If you learn the things that you do particularly well as a therapist, then you can tailor your practice and play to your strengths," Coyne said. (ANI)

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