Research matters

... for clients

The prime importance of research is for client welfare. We have a duty to clients to evidence the benefits of therapy, and also to recognise its potential adverse effects.

Using routine outcomes to give clients feedback on their progress in therapy is helpful to both the client and the practitioner and may improve outcomes. Research can also support client choice by identifying a range of therapies which may be beneficial for them.

... for practitioners

Research is a vital part of therapeutic practice. The BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions values research for “enhancing our professional knowledge and providing an evidence-base for practice in ways that benefit our clients” (Good practice point 68). It commits members to 'keeping accurate and appropriate records’ (Commitment 2e) and to ‘monitoring how clients experience our work together and the effects of our work with them’ (Commitment 6d).

While it may feel that incorporating research into routine practice can interfere with the therapeutic process, studies show that therapists who monitor their clients’ progress using tools such as outcome measures are better able to meet their client’s needs.

... for commissioners

Evidence that counselling and psychotherapy are effective and cost effective is essential for commissioning of services. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) develops its guidelines based on research. If no research is available on a particular therapy, or if other research is considered to be of a higher standard, then the therapy may not be recommended, even if there is no evidence that it is less effective than more widely researched alternatives. An example of this is the commissioning of IAPT services where Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has the largest body of research and is most often commissioned.

What we do

We support and encourage research across the counselling professions by:

  • providing a research enquiry service and guidance documents for those starting out in research or who wish to refresh their skills
  • running practice research networks (PRNs) to bring together practitioners, trainers and researchers to engage in research and evaluation
  • organising an annual, peer-reviewed conference to showcase the latest research in the counselling professions
  • offering PhD studentships to fund research that supports our work in promoting the counselling professions.

We also undertake and commission research ourselves, and in partnership with others, to help build the evidence base for the counselling professions. Recent work includes:

  • a research study with the University of Sheffield which is looking at the effectiveness of counselling and CBT in treating depression
  • a three year trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of school-based counselling, in line with our key strategic work stream of children, young people and families
  • a review of the current evidence for counselling older people, along with public perception and care home surveys, to support our older people strategy

Further reading

  • Barlow DH. Negative Effects From Psychological Treatments: A Perspective American Psychologist, 2010:65(1):13-20.
  • Lambert MJ, Whipple JL, Smart DM, Vermeersch DA, Nielson SL, Hawkins EJ. The Effects of Providing Therapists With Feedback on Patient Progress During Psychotherapy: Are Outcomes Enhanced? Psychotherapy Research. 2001:11(1):49-68
  • Reese RJ, Norsworthy LA, and Rowlands SR. Does a continuous feedback system improve psychotherapy outcome? Psychotherapy Theory, Research, Practice, Training. 2009:46(4):418–431
  • Stanhope V, Barrenger SL, Salzer MS and Marcus SC. Examining the Relationship between Choice, Therapeutic Alliance and Outcomes in Mental Health Services. Journal of personal medicine. 2013:3(3): 191-202
  • Lambert MJ. Presidential address: What we have learned from a decade of research aimed at improving psychotherapy outcome in routine care, Psychotherapy Research. 2006:17(1):1-14
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Depression in adults: recognition and management Clinical guideline [CG90]. 2009

Animal research

BACP focuses on evaluating the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of counselling and psychotherapy for people of all ages, so we do not currently fund research using animals. However, as a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) we adhere to the AMRC's principles as outlined in its statement on animal research.