Years after first sounding me out, I was finally asked last year if I would be willing to be on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s Research Committee. Last Monday and Tuesday was my first experience on this committee, which meets once a year in London. On Monday evening, I was pleased to meet up with my friends and SPR colleagues, Bill Stiles and Louis Castonguay (Louis somewhat jet-lagged from having only that morning), as well as my Strathclyde colleague Mick Cooper, plus Sue Wheeler (whom I seem to see every other week these days), Michael King (of King et al., 2000, fame), and the usual BACP suspects: Nancy, Suky, Angela. Andrew Reeves, the new editor of BACP’s research journal, Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, was also there, as were two other new members: Pete Bower and Paul Gilbert.
1. Paul Gilbert. Dinner conversation with Paul Gilbert revealed him to be a charming and entertaining fellow. More importantly, it turns out that he and I have been moving in intersecting orbits for years without fully realizing it: I recently wrote a book chapter for him on qualitative research, but neither of us realized that we shared an interest in emotion theory and emotion-focused change processes. Thinking back I now realize that Paul had written a favourable review of an early book chapter I did with Les and one of Les’ students: Greenberg, Elliott & Foerster (1990). Now, we discovered that we are both doing research on social anxiety. Paul is trained in CBT and is a past president of the BABCP (British Association for Behaviour and Cognitive Psychotherapy), but now regards CBT as a kind of “con” because it has become so syncretistic over the past 20 years. Now he is very involved in what he calls Compassionate Mind Therapy, a Third Generation CBT related to Mindfulness therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; Hayes), but based firmly in Buddhism. He has his own version of neuroscience-based Emotion Theory and is doing research on critic and compassionate dialogue processes. He promised to send us articles on what he’s up to and we discussed the possibility of my coming down to Derby to exchange ideas at greater length. This was an excellent contact and felt like a further step on our path of developing dialogue with folks in the CBT world. The world is filled with all manner of interesting things!
2. BACP Research Foundation Priorities. BACP is in the process of setting up a research foundation, so much of our time was taken up with brain storming research priorities for funding possible projects. This process generated a long list of favorite topics by those in attendance:
-Practice to research conversions: feasibility studies in which practitioners who have developed promising therapeutic approaches carry out feasibility studies.Afterwards, on a long walk with Louis and Bill, we concluded, as a self-appointed subcommittee of three, that BACP’s Research Foundation really should focus on practice-based research, thus providing a complement to the concentration on RCTs by government funding agencies and appealing more directly to their members.
-Research infra-structure: Set-up structures whereby BACP members can contribute to large, web-based data sets.
-Data mining of existing data sets (e.g., the various CORE data sets).
-Large-scale of RCT of a key clinical problem, such as couples counselling for marriage breakdown.
-Intermittent therapy through the life cycle (Nick Cummings idea), tracking clients over multiple therapy episodes.
-Long-term therapeutic management of important recurrent problems, e.g., chronic depression.
-Measurement of client counselling preferences (to support a client choice agenda).
-Counselling for grief to address recent controversies over counselling for normal bereavement (probably an RCT).
-Counselling for the two problems most commonly reported by clients: fatigue and crises.
-Why don’t clients come back? (client drop out).
-Systematic reviews of qualitative research.
-Writing of accessible books on important emerging areas of practice (e.g., counselling in schools).
3. If I ran the zoo, part 2: Actually, separate from whatever the Research Foundation gets up to, I think that the BACP should actively promote practice-based research and therapy outcome monitoring as a benefit of membership. This would make BACP into one giant Practitioner Research Network (PRN). They don’t want to endorse any single outcome measure, which makes sense, but instead they could offer a choice of instruments, including CORE-OM, Psychlops, Personal Questionnaire and possibly the new depression-anxiety measure being pushed by the NHS. Each of these would be administered, scored, and stored online, with weekly progress monitoring automatically provided following Mike Lambert’s signal alarm method. It seems to me that this should be provided free as a benefit of membership to BACP members. As such, it would make possible a huge step toward making counselling/ psychotherapy an evidence-based profession. With more than 30,000 members and research on counselling in voluntary and private practice settings only now beginning, the possibilities are enormous!