Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Currents of Evidence; Meta-Analysis Started

In the April 28, 2007, issue of Science News, there is a really interesting article about flotsam. The article quotes an oceanographer named Richard Thompson (no relation to the folk musician I assume) as saying, “with oceanographers, the more data the better.” In the face of sceptics, He is trying to justify his careful study of flotsam, bits of junk that float around in the North Pacific , such as accidentally spilled loads of children’s tub toys (e.g., rubber ducks) and Nike running shoes – in order to study the paths of ocean currents, such as the Pacific Subarctic Gyre.

This struck me as a really nice metaphor for the kind of psychotherapy research I like to do: to collect lots a data in order to follow the client’s currents, to see where and how they go, where they pop up again. In this process, it seems to me, we need all the data we can get, or at least all that we know what to do with (and then some, because you never know when you might figure out more cool things to do with your data). For reasons I find myself totally unable to fathom, many people don’t like this approach at all, and even consider it to be “junk science”. This strikes me as unimaginative, narrow and wasteful.

We have started the meta-analysis project, Beth and I primarily, but with input along the way from Mick. Beth is carefully and independently re-doing all the analyses I previously did for the previous 4 generations of the person-centred/experiential therapy meta-analysis. This is exciting because, with support from a grant from the British Association for the Person-Centred Approach, we will be able to check our calculations and ratings for reliability and substantially increase the size of our sample of studies. The approach to meta-analysis we are using makes use of as much of the available data as possible, as part of a strategy of following multiple lines of evidence, including client pre-post change, client change in comparison to no-treatment controls, and client change in PCE therapies in comparison to clients in other therapies. That is, we follow the fancy cruise ships (randomized comparative studies), the old-fashioned freighters (controlled studies vs. no-treatment or waitlist conditions), and even the floating bits of flotsam (one-group pre-post studies). We will put all these things together, and see where it takes. Of course, by this time, we have a pretty good already, because I have been around this gyre a few times previously. But this time, it will be done more systematically, and this time will benefit from Beth’s attention to detail and suggestions for looking at the data more from a classical person-centred perspective.

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