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Psychotherapy Research and the NIMH: An Either/Or or Both/And Research Agenda?

PLAKUN, ERIC M. MD

Journal of Psychiatric Practice: March 2017 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p 130–133
doi: 10.1097/PRA.0000000000000217
COLUMNS: Psychotherapy

There is a need for psychotherapy research to determine the effective, nonspecific or shared elements of psychotherapy regardless of therapy school. In an apparent “either/or” rather than “both/and” choice, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has committed its research resources to study of neural mechanisms and biomarkers, while greatly reducing funding for research into clinical methods, including psychotherapy. This column explores the potential effect of this decision on patient care and reviews questions raised by some about whether the underlying “big idea” behind the NIMH research approach is supported by the results of several decades of brain and genomics research. Patients are left to hope for clinically meaningful research findings concerning brain or gene mechanisms of mental disorders, as if they are just around the corner, when the actual benefit of such research likely remains decades away.

PLAKUN: Associate Medical Director, Director of Biopsychosocial Advocacy, Austen Riggs Center, Stockbridge, MA, and Leader, the American Psychiatric Association Psychotherapy Caucus, Arlington, VA

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Eric M. Plakun, MD, Associate Medical Director, Director of Biopsychosocial Advocacy, Austen Riggs Center, Stockbridge, MA 01262. eric.plakun@austenriggs.net.

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