Advancing psychotherapy and evidence-based psychological interventions

Today we coauthored two new studies published in a special issue in International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research.

Paper 1:
Psychology as a science offers an enormous diversity of theories, principles, and methodological approaches to understand mental health, abnormal functions and behaviours and mental disorders. A selected overview of the scope, current topics as well as strength and gaps in Psychological Sciencemay help to depict the advances needed to inform future research agendas specifically on mental health and mental disorders. From an integrative psychological perspective, most maladaptive health behaviours andmental disorders can be conceptualized as the result of developmental dysfunctions of psychological functions and processes as well as neurobiological and genetic processes that interact with the environment. The paper presents and discusses an integrative translational model, linking basic and experimental research with clinical research as well as population-based prospective-longitudinal studies.

This model provides a conceptual framework to identify how individual vulnerabilities interact with environment over time, and promote critical behaviours that might act as proximal risk factors for ill-health and mental disorders. Within the models framework, such improved knowledge is also expected to better delineate targeted preventive and therapeutic interventions that prevent further escalation in early stages before the full disorder and further complications thereof develop.

In contrast to conventional “personalized medicine” that typically targets individual (genetic) variation of patients who already have developed a disease to improve medical treatment, the proposed framework model, linked to a concerted funding programme of the “Science of Behaviour Change”, carries the promise of improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention of health-risk behaviour constellations as well as mental disorders.

The need for a behavioural science focus in research on mental health and mental disorders
The need for a behavioural science focus in research on mental health and mental disorders
Paper 2:
Psychological models of mental disorders guide research into psychological and environmental factors that elicit and maintain mental disorders as well as interventions to reduce them. This paper addresses four areas. (1) Psychological models of mental disorders have become increasingly transdiagnostic, focusing on core cognitive endophenotypes of psychopathology from an integrative cognitive psychology perspective rather than offering explanations for unitary mental disorders. It is argued that psychological interventions for mental disorders will increasingly target specific cognitive dysfunctions rather than symptom-based mental disorders as a result. (2) Psychotherapy research still lacks a comprehensive conceptual framework that brings together the wide variety of findings, models and perspectives. Analysing the state-of-the-art in psychotherapy treatment research, “component analyses” aiming at an optimal identification of core ingredients and the mechanisms of change is highlighted as the core need towards improved efficacy and effectiveness of psychotherapy, and improved translation to routine care. (3) In order to provide more effective psychological interventions to children and adolescents, there is a need to develop new and/or improved psychotherapeutic interventions on the basis of developmental psychopathology research taking into account knowledge of mediators and moderators. Developmental neuroscience research might be instrumental to uncover associated aberrant brain processes in children and adolescents with mental health problems and to better examine mechanisms of their correction by means of psychotherapy and psychological interventions. (4) Psychotherapy research needs to broaden in terms of adoption of large-scale public health strategies and treatments that can be applied to more patients in a simpler and cost-effective way. Increased research on efficacy and moderators of Internet-based treatments and e-mental health tools (e.g. to support “real time” clinical decision-making to prevent treatment failure or relapse) might be one promising way forward.

Full references:
Emmelkamp, P. M. G., David, D., Beckers, T., Muris, P., Cuijpers, P., Lutz, W., Andersson, G., Araya, R., Banos Rivera, R. M., Barkham, M., Berking, M., Berger, T., Botella, C., Carlbring, P., Colom, F., Essau, C., Hermans, D., Hofmann, S. G., Knappe, S., Ollendick, T. H., Raes, F., Rief, W., Riper, H., Van Der Oord, S., & Vervliet, B. (2014).Advancing psychotherapy and evidence-based psychological interventions. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 23 (S1), 58-91. [doi: 10.1002/mpr.1411]Wittchen, H. U., Knappe, S., Andersson, G., Araya, R., Banos Rivera, R. M., Barkham, M., Bech, P., Beckers, T.,

Berger, T., Berking, M., Berrocal, C., Botella, C., Carlbring, P., Chouinard, G., Colom, F., Csillag, C., Cujipers, P., David, D., Emmelkamp, P. M. G., Essau, C. A., Fava, G. A., Goschke, T., Hermans, D., Hofmann, S. G., Lutz, W., Muris, P., Ollendick, T. H., Raes, F., Rief, W., Riper, H., Tossani, E., van der Oord, S., Vervliet, B., Haro, J. M., & Schumann, G. (2014). The need for a behavioural science focus in research on mental health and mental disorders. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 23 (S1), 28-40. [doi: 10.1002/mpr.1409]