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Research - current projects

Simulated patients in training and supervision for the evaluation of therapeutic competencies

Psychotherapy is highly effective and widely acknowledged for treating various mental disorders. In terms of methods for teaching effective psychotherapeutic approaches and competencies, there has been a lack of investigation. Training and supervision are the main strategies for teaching therapist competencies. Standardized role plays with simulated patients (trained persons playing someone with a mental disorder) are useful for evaluating training approaches. In medical education, this procedure is now internationally established. However, little use has been made so far of standardized role playing to evaluate training and supervision in the area of clinical psychology and psychotherapy. Yet, this approach has a considerable potential for systemizing research. During the first phase of the research project, standardized role playing will be adapted to assess therapist competencies in clinical-psychological practice. In the second phase, standardized role plays are used to evaluate methods for training and supervision. In two experiments, central approaches for treating depression are trained (cognitive restructuring and behavioral activation). The first experiment compares an active training approach (model learning) with a passive one (reading the manual). The second experiment compares two methods of supervision (verbal report vs. video analysis). In each experiment, 68 master students of psychology are randomly assigned to the experimental and control groups. Each student takes part in three role plays (pre, post and three-month follow-up) which are all videotaped. Two independent raters assess the therapist competence of each role play on the basis of an established competence scale. Thus, the research project makes a contribution to the development of training methods in the area of clinical psychology. Furthermore, it provides important knowledge about specific approaches to training and supervision. This in turn will lead to more elaborated psychotherapeutic training, and an effective dissemination of psychotherapeutic treatment methods.

funding and facilitation: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

period of funding: 06/2019 bis 05/2022

staff: Prof. Dr. Florian Weck, Dr. Franziska Kühne

The importance of competence-feedback for therapy outcome: a randomized controlled trial

Psychotherapeutic competencies are considered to be an important factor for therapy success. However, empirical studies which have investigated the competence-outcome relationship were only based on correlational analyses. Therefore, these studies are inappropriate for the investigation of causal relationships. In previous studies, feedback on therapists’ competencies was found to be suitable for enhancing such competencies. Therefore, in the current research project, competence-feedback should be used to enhance therapeutic competencies systematically, in order to investigate the causal impact of these competencies on therapy outcome. Using a randomized controlled study design, n = 58 treatments of patients with depression were to be conducted under a feedback-condition, in which the therapist would receive feedback five times within 20 treatment sessions. The competence-feedback includes detailed feedback about 14 different aspects of therapist behavior. The control group includes n = 58 further treatments within which therapists do not receive any competence-feedback (treatment as usual; TAU). In order to ensure comparability of both treatment conditions (regarding an observation situation), the therapists in the TAU condition should also receive feedback, but only after the treatments are finished. We hypothesize that the feedback-group is superior to the TAU-group and that their treatments lead to significantly better therapy outcome. Moreover, we use mediator analysis to analyze whether the group-outcome relationship is mediated by therapeutic competencies or by the quality of the therapeutic alliance. The results are highly relevant for clinical process research, psychotherapy training and for the dissemination of treatment approaches in routine care.

funding and facilitation: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

period of funding: 08/2015 - 01/2019

staff: Prof. Dr. Florian Weck, Yvonne M. Kaufmann, M.Sc