Sunday, June 24, 2007

Personal Commentary on: Change Process Research: Realizing the Promise

Entry for 24 June 2007:

Every year, the Program Chair for the Society for Psychotherapy Research International Conference (who is also the President-Elect of SPR) gets to design one or two plenary sessions. This year, I was pleased when Jacques Barber exercised his prerogative by inviting me to present in the final plenary session on current challenges and possibilities for therapy process research. However, I was extremely busy before I left Scotland, with the end of the Diploma course and the analyses for the paper that Jutta and I were to present, so I didn’t really have enough time to feel that I had adequately prepared for this, my highest-profile presentation of the conference.

The night before the conference, I was just settling in to do some serious work on this presentation, when my oldest son Brendan, who had made a last minute visit back to Toledo, decided that he needed to have a long talk with me. This was just like the old days when he was in high school and used to poke his head into my study as I was trying desperately to finish a lecture. As always, how could I refuse him? (It was a really good talk…)

On arrival in Madison, I learned that there had been a rash of last minute illnesses; Jacques informed me that two of the 4 presenters for the final session had had to cancel. That left Rob DeRubeis and me to hold the fort, which significantly increased the pressure. I wrote most of the talk on Wednesday afternoon in my hotel room, but I was unsatisfied with it and worked on it on and off over the next three days, around my other presentations and going to sessions. I ended up tinkering it right up until 5 minutes before the beginning of the session, adding examples and trying to tie in things from earlier in the conference.

In the end, much to my surprise, it was very well received and many people asked for copies. Rob’s talk followed mine and I was also pleasantly surprised at how well it dove-tailed with one of my main points, i.e., that the process-outcome change process research genre is greatly over-used and needs to be supplemented with other approaches.

The source of much of my anxiety was that I was not prepared to present concrete examples of what I was talking about. However, I didn't really have time to present detailed examples, so this turned out to be mostly the product of my over-active/perfectionistic critic. The strength of the talk probably lay primarily in my presenting a clear, relatively straightforward taxonomy of research approaches, without larding it down with confusing details. It is yet another example of how I tend to do my best work under time presure when I don't have time to obsess too much!

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