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See Inside January / February 2010

Bringing Science Policies to Clinical Psychology

An accreditation program could help bring better treatments to patients

The high cost of health care is no secret. Revamping clinical psychology could be one way to make the system more efficient—while also helping psychologists better serve their patients, according to a recent report from the Association for Psychological Science. The report details an accreditation system that has been in development for two years, which will certify training programs that focus on scientifically validated treatments and instruct their students in the scientific method. The system would also create a “seal of approval” to show prospective patients that a psychologist received such an education, the report says.

“Many of the people being trained today aren’t trained to understand and apply science to patients out in the real world, so patients aren’t getting the treatments most likely to help them,” says Timothy Baker, a psychology researcher and professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and co-author of the report. Clinical psychology continues to depend on outdated, ineffective strategies of diagnosis and treatment—and surveys show individual practitioners often value their own experience or a “hunch” over scientific evidence, ultimately hindering their ability to effectively help patients. “We’re simply not taking advantage of what is known in scientific research,” Baker says.

With a stronger scientific background, psychologists not only will be able to better choose treatments for patients and gauge therapy’s effectiveness, but they also could become “more sophisticated users of psychological research,” Baker notes. “They’ll contribute to research and improve treatments.”

Note: This story was originally printed with the title "Bringing Science into the Clinic"

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