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The facts are friendly: evidencing Humanistic approaches to psychological practice

evidencing Humanistic approaches to psychological practice

In this article, Jessica Woolliscroft reports on a talk at the AHP/B and HIPC Joint Conference (Association of Humanistic psychology/Britain and Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy College of UKCP, titled Celebrating 50 years of Humanistic Psychology Opening Presentation. The talk, delivered by Professor Mick Cooper, revealed that contrary to popular opinion, emotion- focused therapy was reported to be more effective than Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in many Randomised Controlled Trials.

These findings are interesting, because this key note lecture succeeded in delivering support to the many humanistic practitioners who have for years attempted to overcome criticism due to 'weak evidence base', where outcome research is concerned. In short, Professor Cooper demonstrated that CBT as a therapeutic orientation as claimed in many Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) of counselling outcomes could not be seen as automatically superior to other forms of therapy, and that in many instances emotion-focused therapy outperformed CBT.

Professor Cooper revealed that many apparently objective RCTs comparing CBT with other approaches actually compare CBT delivered by CBT therapists with 'person centred therapies' or 'humanistic therapies'  delivered by CBT therapists following a manualised version of those approaches. This is not apparent unless one reads the fine print in the experimental method. When this researcher bias is taken into account, then humanistic therapies, particularly the more active, 'process-guiding' approaches, by established standards are generally as effective as other therapies, including CBT. Emotion -focused therapy does better than CBT. Also, the effects last. Humanistic therapies are associated with large improvements at the end of therapy and at one year follow up.(Elliott et al; 2013 in Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change, Ed. Lambert).

Biography (Taken from the Programme notes for the Conference).

Professor Mick Cooper is a Professor of Counselling at the University of Strathclyde and a Chartered Counselling Psychologist.  Mick is author and editor of a range of texts on existential, person-centred and relational approaches to therapy, including ‘The Handbook of Person-centred Psychotherapy and Counselling’ (Palgrave, 2007), ‘Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy’ (Sage, 2005, with Dave Mearns) and ‘Existential Therapies’ (Sage, 2003).  Mick has also written extensively on research findings and their implications for therapeutic practice: authoring ‘Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy: The Facts are Friendly’ (Sage, 2008).  Most recently, Mick co-authored, with John McLeod, ‘Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy’ (Sage, 2011), which strives to develop an approach to counselling and psychotherapy that is fundamentally orientated around clients’ wants, choices and perspectives.  Mick lives in Glasgow with his partner and four young children.

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