Psychological treatments have advanced by leaps and bounds in the last century and will continue to improve, as long as there is a commitment to and support for research to find new and better ways of helping patients.
That was the message from David Barlow, the guest presenter for The University of Southern Mississippi’s annual Hildman Colloquium in Psychology. Barlow is founder of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD) at Boston University, where he is a professor of psychology and psychiatry.
In his presentation, titled “Science and Practice in 2011 and Beyond,” Barlow reviewed the progress of research in the last several decades to establish effective evidence-based practice in psychology, which he said has advanced because of the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values and preferences.
These research efforts and resulting practices they are based on, have also had an impact on mental healthcare policy, he said.
“In my lifetime, we’ve come from a primitive state to the point we are at today, but we still have a long way to go,” said Barlow, who was on the faculty at University of Mississippi Medical Center early in his career.
Barlow said today’s new psychological treatments “are at least as good as or better than” medication for treating a variety of disorders, including such mental health challenges as anxiety disorders, mood disorders and schizophrenia, among others.
‘We’re learning more and more about the nature of some of these disorders,” he said, including what he described as the “intricate dance of genetic and environmental influences” that shapes them.
Dr. Michael Madson, assistant professor of psychology at Southern Miss, concurred with Barlow’s assessments. Madson is principle investigator of the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS), a referral-based program on campus designed to help stem alcohol use problems among students. He said the program, which provides students with strategies to protect themselves should they choose to consume alcohol, is a good example of the use of multiple evidence-based practices.
“It’s exciting to know that Southern Miss is at the forefront in higher education in training psychologists and therapists and other mental health service providers in the use of evidence-based practices to help clients,” he said.