While presenting a paper at the International Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR) conference in Brisbane, Australia in July, I had a sudden realisation that, at one point or another, I had been a research collaborator with each of my co-presenters on the panel, who in turn represented a United Nations of different cultures: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Denmark… Their psychotherapy orientations were similarly diverse, as were their research methods and fields of interest.
As a Canadian, my participation in an international organisation such as SPR has provided me with an unparalleled opportunity to learn from practice-informed researchers and research-informed practitioners from all around the globe. They, in turn, have shaped my investigations into the contributions of narrative and emotion processes to effective treatment outcomes1 and directly informed my work as a psychotherapist,2 clinical supervisor and workshop facilitator. Perhaps even more importantly, it has allowed me to form special friendships with colleagues around the world.
It is clear to me that a crucial element of my own development as a psychotherapy researcher and practitioner has been my ongoing engagement with this international community of psychotherapists.
In particular, participating in SPR has afforded me a rich opportunity over the past 20 years to develop collaborative research partnerships in many countries.1 In turn, when Les Greenberg and I co-developed the York I Depression Study transcript database at York University in Toronto Canada,1 we had no idea it would spawn a host of international research collaborations with SPR colleagues, culminating in the publication of a Special Section of Psychotherapy Research in 2008.3
Similarly, Michael Barkham managed to assemble a cohort of 12 colleagues from the USA, Canada and the UK4 to address the important question of whether therapists in randomised controlled trials achieve superior outcomes to clinicians in community-based practice settings. This study provides an excellent example of the benefits of developing international research relationships for the completion of broad-based clinical studies in the UK.5
Interestingly, the results of Michael and colleagues’ study showed only a modest advantage (12 per cent) for randomised controlled trials even though the practice-based community samples often included more psycho-diagnostically complex clients, who are under-represented in research clinical trials.
As well as supporting the development of collaborative researcher networks, an increasing focus of psychotherapy research organisations such as SPR has been the engagement of clinical practitioners in the development of international research programmes addressing real world issues affecting client engagement in psychotherapy and treatment outcomes. For instance, David Orlinsky and Michael Helge Ronnestad6 have spearheaded an SPR research collaboration focused on ‘the person of the therapist’. This has resulted in the creation of an international consortium of over 10,000 therapy practitioners and researchers, who all took part in a comprehensive, cross-cultural investigation of therapists’ core values, attitudes, satisfaction and challenges in clinical practice around the world.
More recently, a special interest group focusing on the investigation of practice-informed research questions around clinical supervision and training has emerged within SPR, with broad participation by both clinical practitioners and researchers. This special interest group will be hosting a meeting at the UK Chapter of the Society for Psychotherapy Research conference in Oxford, 12–14 September. As keynote speaker for that conference, and a past president of SPR, I encourage all counselling practitioners interested in supervision and training research to join us.
From my own experience, such events provide a unique opportunity to form lifelong friendships with colleagues who engage in different therapy approaches, research interests and cultures. That is for me what is so very special about being part of an international research society such as SPR, and I hope it will be for you too.
Lynne Angus PhD CPsych is Professor of Psychology at York University, Toronto, Canada.
1. Angus L. An integrative understanding of narrative and emotion processes in emotion-focused therapy of depression: implications for theory, research and practice. Psychotherapy Research 2012; 22(4): 367–380.
2. Angus L, Greenberg L. Working with narrative in emotion-focused therapy: changing stories, healing lives. Washington DC: American Psychological Association Press; 2011.
3. Angus L, Goldman R, Mergenthaler E. Introduction to Special Section. One case, multiple measures: an intensive case-analytic approach to understanding client change processes in evidence-based, emotion-focused therapy of depression. Psychotherapy Research 2008; 18(6): 629–634.
4. Barkham M, Stiles W, Connell J, Twigg E, Leach C, Lucock M, Mellor-Clark J, Bower P, King M, Shapiro D, Hardy G, Greenberg L, Angus L. Effects of psychological therapies in randomised trials and practice-based studies. British Journal of Clinical Psychology 2008; 47: 397–415.
5. Barkham M, Mellor-Clark J. Bridging evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence: developing a rigorous and relevant knowledge for the psychological therapies. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy 2003; 10: 1–9.
6. Orlinsky DE, Ronnestad MH. The developing practitioner: growth and stagnation in therapists and counselors. New York, NY: Routledge; 2013.