Sally Singer Horwatt, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Research Network Strengthens Psychologists' Influence 

Sally Singer Horwatt, President-elect 

Virginia Psychological Association

(Article appeared in The Virginia Psychologist, the Newsletter of the Virginia Psychological Association (VPA).  The VPA is a 1200 member professional association of all psychologists, clinicians, academicians, researchers, school psychologists and industrial psychologists.)
When the speed of change on the outside exceeds the speed of change on the inside, the end is near. 

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Research Network Strengthens Psychologists' Influence

In my last article, I talked about the necessity for keeping VPA's
boundaries fluid in order to maintain and expand our profession, influence social policy, and meet the needs of our members. One of the strategic goals for the year 2000 which I have been advocating is the establishment of a strong infrastructure for the Virginia Research Network (VRN).

A strong VRN, envisioned as a collaborative effort between Virginia's
practitioners and scientists, is essential.  We must be able to provide the myriad stakeholders in mental health scientific evidence to be used to inform decisions about the content of training programs, reimbursement,
and evaluation of quality care.  We must demonstrate that what we do as practitioners leads to improvement in the quality of life.  Our success or failure in producing data will have an impact on the nature and survival of psychology as a whole.

To date, efficacy questions answered by carefully controlled experimental investigations have been largely irrelevant to the patient and practitioner. Their essential flaw is their lack of external validity.  The Consumer Report study, on the other hand, lacks internal validity.  Although the CR study used actual patients from actual clinical and counseling sessions, rival hypotheses could not be rejected by the nature of the design and methods.

Research must be conducted in real-world, clinical settings with
real-world patients.

Using the valuable experience of the Pennsylvania Research Network (PRN), we know that we need a randomly selected and representative sample of clinicians and patients in the state.  We need to analyze therapy outcomes using measure directly relevant to the person's presenting problem.

Process research is one kind of design which can compensate for
inadequacies of both correlational and comparative research designs in evaluating psychotherapy outcomes.  Audiotapes from randomly selected therapy sessions among sub-groups of patients and therapists
present opportunities for objective coding of patient and therapist
processes and for evaluating the relationship of specific process variables in clinical outcome.  In this type of design, systematic events in therapy sessions are evaluated for their effect on both the patient and the therapist.  Many types of process research could be conducted within the context ofthe VRN.

We need volunteers, clinicians statisticians and scientists.  We need you all.

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