Quality of continuing education for psychotherapists questioned, unsupported by research

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Study shows lack of evidence-based science in psychotherapy workshops
Published: 27May2020

New research from McGill University has found that nearly half of psychotherapies promoted in workshops approved by l’Ordre des Psychologues du Québec are not supported by scientific research, raising questions with regards to accreditation and legitimacy.

To ensure that psychologists and psychotherapists maintain and develop their professional skills, the Ordre des Psychologues du Québec (OPQ) requires that accredited therapists follow 90 hours of continuing education activities over the course of a five-year period.

Because continuing education has an impact on the quality of psychotherapies administered to patients, Leah Beaulieu, PhD candidate in Counselling Psychology at McGill who works under the supervision of Martin Drapeau, a clinical psychologist and professor of Counselling Psychology and Psychiatry, wondered if psychotherapies promoted in OPQ approved workshops were supported by research.

“To our knowledge, no studies had yet examined the scientific evidence behind the continuing education that is approved by the OPQ,” Drapeau says.

To find out, Drapeau and his team compiled available evidence for psychotherapies advertised for training in Psychologie Québec - the OPQ’s official journal – in 2015.

Their findings, published recently in Canadian Psychology, showed that of the 26 OPQ approved psychotherapies showcased in Psychologie Québec, only 10 had research demonstrating their effects.

“We found that nearly half of the workshops advertised were not yet supported by research,” says Beaulieu, lead author of the paper. “This was very surprising, and disappointing, to say the least.”

Impact on practices and patients

Though their study did not examine how the training advertised by the OPQ translates into practice with patients, Beaulieu fears the continuing education activities offered to psychotherapists could have an impact on patient care.

“If psychologists or other licensed therapists are providing suboptimal psychotherapy to their clients and patients, treatment outcomes may be diminished,” she says.

While some practitioners might argue that clinical judgment is more valuable than research evidence when providing psychotherapy, Beaulieu believes that there should be more transparency about the scientific support for the workshops and continuing education activities that are approved and promoted.

“We are not asking for psychotherapies without research evidence to be forgotten or ignored. We are simply advocating for greater transparency when psychotherapy is novel. There is certainly tremendous value in supporting innovation in psychotherapeutic practices, but clinicians should know if the training they complete is supported by research.”

Beaulieu and Drapeau hope their findings will encourage those who give workshops to pay more attention to science, and regulatory bodies to revise the procedures currently in place to evaluate, accredit, and advertise the workshops offered to their members. Similar studies should also be carried out in other jurisdictions to ensure that accredited psychotherapists are provided with optimal continuing education.

About this study

Continuing Education: A Review of the Empirical Support for Psychotherapy Training Offered to Québec Psychologists” by Leah Beaulieu et al. was published in Canadian Psychology.

This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% per cent of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

Contact Information

Contact: 
Frederique Mazerolle
Organization: 
McGill University
Email: 
frederique.mazerolle [at] mcgill.ca
Office Phone: 
(514) 398-6693
Mobile Phone: 
(514) 617-8615
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