Scott Lilienfeld on Let Science Be Our Guide


Scott Lilienfeld on Let Science Be Our Guide

By Scott Lilienfeld

March/April 2015


Part of the problem for psychotherapy as a field is that those of us in academia and research haven’t always been good at translating what research has discovered about effective psychotherapy for frontline practitioners. By and large, we haven’t made a strong enough case to practitioners that, although science is rarely infallible, it’s still our best shot at getting us closer to the truth about how the world actually works. That may seem like a self-evident point, but it’s easily forgotten.

Contributing to this problem is confusion about the difference between the American Psychological Association Division 12’s (Society of Clinical Psychology) approved list of empirically supported treatments, which are methods that have been found to be efficacious in controlled trials, and a more general approach to enhancing therapy called evidence-based practice. The latter, according to Division 12, is a broad approach to psychotherapy that goes beyond just choosing something from the approved list by integrating other factors that may influence therapy outcomes, such as the quality of the therapeutic alliance, client preferences and values, and therapist expertise.

I think that one of the major consequences of the gap between science and clinical practice is that some therapists are more impressed with fads than they ought to be. To take just one recent example, many clinicians have become preoccupied with making the brain a central concern of therapy. I worry that…

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