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The Challenges of Psychotherapy Research

Clinician Support
10.15.2021

As a healthcare provider, you likely already know that addiction is a highly complex brain disorder that is estimated to affect the lives of over 20.7 million Americans (2017). It requires individualized, or patient-centric, treatment due to the causes and symptoms of addiction being highly-specific to each individual. Because of the complexities and individualities of each person’s experience with addiction, we at Wellbridge believe that it is crucial to leverage several different types of treatment into our care model in order to best support each patient’s needs. One of those treatment types is psychotherapy.

But what is psychotherapy beyond standard definitions? How do we as clinicians bridge the gap between what researchers define as psychotherapy and the care we provide to patients? How do we determine which therapeutic techniques work best for specific disorders? How do we develop a deeper understanding of the goals, processes and measures of success to drive more comprehensive treatment across the board?

As a Research Scientist at the Center for Addiction Research at Wellbridge, these are just some of the questions I aim to further investigate.

What is Psychotherapy Research?

Psychotherapy research has the monumental task of understanding how and why psychotherapy works in treating mental health disorders. Due to the complexities of psychotherapy, and the reality that psychotherapy is highly individualized, this kind of research poses many challenges.

Psychotherapy research looks at things such as theoretical orientation (what therapeutic interventions or techniques work based on varying patient behaviors or challenges); focus of therapy (such as emotions, behaviors, systems, relationships, environment, etc…); the role patient motivation plays (how motivated vs. unmotivated patients respond); and relationship (the interpersonal relationships between licensed professionals and patients).

The Challenges of Psychotherapy Research

When you look at the very nature of psychotherapy, it’s easy to see the many challenges to innovation and advancement. There are different professional backgrounds, training models, therapeutic goals and interventions – and for good reason. Unlike most healthcare fields, we rarely standardize our approach to therapy because of the “human being component”. We are human beings working with human beings to understand that a human’s particular set of challenges, behaviors and emotions in a way that not only treats them, but also helps them grow and flourish outside of our doors. Therapy is not “one size fits all”. The lack of standardization of care is the greatest challenge to research in this area, but also the most powerful piece of providing successful care to patients.

This all being said, these challenges do not mean that there is no way to understand, measure and improve the success of psychotherapy. There are countless opportunities to advance the mental health field through new interventions, goals and even the way we look at the success of treatment itself.

Research at Wellbridge

Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research was founded with the goal of merging research and care. That’s why our campus is home to both a treatment facility and a research center – the idea of having both in one place physically “bridges the gap” between the two. Wellbridge believes it to be a highly necessary component to providing the most innovative, effective treatment to our patients through clinical and patient collaboration.

Our goals at the Center for Addiction Science are three-fold:

  • We are creating a wealth of scientific knowledge that has an immediate impact on patient care at Wellbridge and beyond. This is done by using scientific methods from various fields such as Dissemination and Implementation Science.
  • We are purposeful in ensuring that the culture at Wellbridge integrates clinical, scientific, and patient-focused perspectives at all times. For example, a Research Scientist attends daily clinical meetings while the clinical and administrative staff attend weekly and monthly research-focused events.
  • It is imperative that our research benefits go beyond our Wellbridge patients and their support networks. Once it is safe to do so, our events will extend to be open to the wider Long Island, New York, and tri-state areas.

Because of the many facets of psychotherapy, our research is broad. However, some of our current projects include:

  • Tracking patient progress during treatment at Wellbridge and post-treatment.
  • Evaluating the implementation of our Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy protocol, Family Services program protocol, and Movement Psychotherapy protocol.
  • Assessing the best way to communicate research findings to clinicians and patients.

If you are interested in learning more about the Center for Addiction Science and the work we are doing to advance addiction treatment, contact us today.