The New Savoy Partnership Website

Science meets psychological therapists Investigating the effective practitioner

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Professor Michael Barkham

Professor of Clinical Psychology, Director: Centre for Psychological Services Research, University of Sheffield

  • Review of research literature relating to the impact of technical and common factors in the psychological therapies
  • Investigating practitioner effects from both randomised trials and practice-based data: recent studies
  • Delivering effective psychological therapies in routine NHS practice settings requires both effective treatments and effective practitioners


Michael Barkham is currently Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Centre for Psychological Services Research at the University of Sheffield. He was previously Professor of Clinical and Counselling Psychology and Director of the Psychological Therapies Research Centre at the University of Leeds. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and is currently joint editor of the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. For the past 10 years he had been heavily involved in the development and implementation of the CORE measures and system and is a CORE System Trustee. He has an abiding commitment to promoting practice-based evidence in counselling and the psychological therapies as a way of bridging the scientist-practitioner gap and as a complement to trials methodology.

Session report by Jan McGregor Hepburn, BPC

PROF MICHAEL BARKHAM spoke on ‘Investigating the effective practitioner’. He is a professor of clinical psychology in Sheffield, and what he had to say was very exciting, and turned everything on its head. He said that the RCT aim was to reduce therapist effect; his investigations of the research however has indicated that some show that one method is better than another, and that some do not; he thinks that researcher allegiance is a major issue in this. He said that in a lot of RCTs, one or two therapists carry out most of the treatments; in fact what is being assessed is therapist effect, by and large. He had some very interesting studies ongoing, looking at practices and at which therapists have good results and which not; there are some startling differences, which he thought could not be accounted for only by the allocation of cases. This seemed to me to be a much better way of looking at research; finding out who does well, and why, would help us all be better therapists. He is heavily involved in the CORE method [Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation] and is a trustee. I was impressed, and relieved.