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The role of randomised controlled trials in developing an evidence-base for counselling and psychotherapy

Cooper, Mick and Reeves, Andrew (2012) The role of randomised controlled trials in developing an evidence-base for counselling and psychotherapy. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research. ISSN 1473-3145

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Abstract

Background: Representatives of counselling and person-centred organisations indicate many of their members feel their profession and orientation is under threat, with counselling services being decommissioned in NHS settings. Aims:To understand the views of key figures in the psychological therapies field (policy makers, researchers and representatives of the counselling community) towards randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and their present and future role in developing the evidence-base for counselling and psychotherapy. Method: Interviews (phone, Skype or face-to-face) were conducted with 24 authorities in the field. Relevant practitioner and academic networks were also contacted and key documents in the field were reviewed. Results: Key figures believe that RCTs will continue to play a decisive role in determining which psychological interventions are recommended and commissioned within the NHS for the foreseeable future. Other methods are seen as having some validity, but are generally considered supplementary to RCTs and not a replacement for them. Discussion: Although many members of the counselling community are critical of RCTs, they are likely to remain the mainstay of commissioning policy for some years to come. This means, in the coming years, members of the counselling community may face difficult choices in how to promote their work, while maintaining their core principles and values.