|Beyond the One-Way Mirror - Page 12|
We still have a long way to go in reviving public sector psychotherapy, but the lessons learned from this community represent a hopeful beginning. In the end, successfully transporting an evidence-based model wasn't as much about our statistical outcomes as about building relationships. Doug Sprenkle, a researcher at Purdue University, explained best why the interface between research and real-life therapy can be so difficult: "Researchers sometimes disdain clinicians, fail to listen to their wisdom, and don't typically work very hard at making their work clinically and easily accessible."
This disconnection trap is easy for us researchers and therapists to fall into when we become enamored with a promising new approach, particularly when we've helped develop it and know from solid research how well it can work. There's a natural tendency to think that once we show other clinicians this wonderful new method, there'll be general acclaim and everyone will fall in step behind us. Can't they see how much better this approach is than doing things the old way?!
However, the validity and effectiveness of the approach turned out not to be enough. As we learned, it was necessary to prepare the way for its implementation by taking the time to join with the community on multiple levels, and then continue to join by going the extra mile with onsite visits and videotaped supervision to maintain high-quality delivery of treatment. Once the critical work of joining had been done, the implementation process seemed to take on a life of its own. As the quality of work improved, so did morale. As morale improved, so did the agency's effectiveness. As effectiveness improved, so did the economics.
In the bible story, Jesus observes that one shouldn't put new wine into old bottles, which may break and let the wine run out. But that's what I'd tried in my initial work with PLL. I'd forgotten that agencies, like families, are systems, and that they interlock with multiple other community systems. So, if we didn't engage all the players in all the systems when we presented the new approach, even the most brilliantly conceived project in the world would collapse like a house of cards.
It's an old lesson that bears repeating: we have to pay attention to relationships more than numbers, and to direct supervision more than case notes—which is what our family therapy founders never stopped telling us.
Scott Sells, Ph.D., CEO of Parenting with Love and Limits and a former professor at Savannah State University, serves as a consultant to the Department of Juvenile Justice. He's the author of Treating the Tough Adolescent and Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager. Contact: email@example.com. Cynthia Franklin, Ph.D., is a Stiernberg Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work. She's the author of more than 100 publications. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to the Editor about this article may be e-mailed to email@example.com.