Seeking effective psychological treatment

Getting the Best Psychological Help:
Your Guide to Seeking Effective Psychological Treatment

If this is the first time you are looking for psychological help, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by choices and decisions. Here are some guidelines to help you obtain treatment that is based on the best available research and clinical evidence.

What is effective psychological treatment?

Psychologists are trained to draw on research to guide their professional practice. This approach is referred to as Evidence-Based Practice. Evidence-Based Practice allows psychologists to use the best available information:

  • To select assessment and treatment methods that have been deemed effective in addressing specific conditions.
  • To help you to fully engage in a collaborative relationship with your therapist.
  • To help you actively participate in the therapeutic experiences that enhance good outcomes.
  • To monitor treatment progress and outcome.
  • To adjust their approach if the treatment isn’t working optimally.

Why is it important that my psychologist is using Evidence-Based Practice?

  • The use of Evidence-Based Practice means that the treatment approach suggested for you is based on research indicating that the type of treatment works for people who have problems or conditions like yours. It provides a type of quality control.
  • Treatment approaches that are part of Evidence-Based Practice are guided by a coherent and systematic theory, methodology and science.
  • Evidence-based practice encourages full and open communication between you and your psychologist throughout treatment. It ensures that you are informed about the evidence supporting your treatment and about your treatment progress.

How do I select a psychologist who follows Evidence-Based Practice?

  • Psychologists are expected to provide information about the treatments they offer.
  • This information might include what you can expect from the treatment, the likelihood of success and how you can best manage your condition.
  • It is perfectly legitimate, indeed very sensible to ask “does the research support the use of this method to address my particular concerns?”
  • If the research evidence related to your concern does not yet exist or is not sufficiently strong, the psychologist should be able to provide a coherent rationale for the approach they have suggested and also to describe alternative approaches for you to consider.
  • If there are any risks associated with use of that approach, the psychologist is expected to be able to outline these and explain them fully so that you are in a position to make a fully informed decision about the service that you are receiving.

What is treatment monitoring and why is it important?

  • Psychologists using Evidence-Based Practice may ask you to periodically complete questionnaires or keep track of symptoms and life events over the course of your treatment.
  • The results allow the psychologist to determine if treatment is yielding the expected result. This is very similar to a physician asking a patient with high cholesterol to undergo periodic blood tests in order to ensure that the cholesterol medication they have prescribed is having the desired effect.
  • Monitoring also allows you to get an objective picture of whether treatment is working. Change can occur in small steps and monitoring allows you to see small changes more clearly.
  • If the monitoring indicates that treatment isn’t working, then you and your psychologist can discuss what may be impeding treatment and what can be done about it. Together you may decide that another approach should be tried.
  • It is important to note that treatment can take a while to produce effects, therefore you will want to give the treatment a reasonable try. You and your psychologist can discuss how long is reasonable.

Evidence-Based Practice in psychology is in keeping with the general movement in all health professions toward offering treatments that are based on research evidence. Physicians, nurses, social workers and other health professional organizations are all working to encourage Evidence-Based Practice.