IPT Book Reviews

Title: Scientific Standards of Psychological Practice: Issues and Recommendations  Positive Review Positive Review
Editors: Steven C. Hayes, Victoria M. Follette, Robyn M. Dawes, and Kathleen E. Grady
Publisher: Context Press, 1995

Context Press
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(702) 746-2013
(c) $34.95

The American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology is for psychologists who strongly support and seek to maintain and extend the Boulder Model of Clinical Psychology.  This goal is set against the knowledge that the practice of psychology is largely divorced from the science of psychology.  This 284-page book comes out of a three-day conference in Reno, Nevada, in January, 1995.  The conference brought together national leaders in scientific applied psychology to examine the creation of scientific-based standards of practice.  The book contains the 13 major addresses followed by discussion.

With the changes taking place in the health care system and the science of psychology, there is a hope that the need for accountability will lead to bringing the scientific knowledge into what is actually done in the real world.  The chapters openly and frankly deal with the causes of the split between science and practice.  A major cause is seen to be the proliferation of Psy.D. programs and the impact on practice of professional schools of psychology.  Hayes' commentary (p.92-94) suggests Flexner's turn-of-the-century investigation of medical schools and the suggestion to close the mediocre and poor schools,  which was done, can be replicated today for the training programs for psychologists.

The most powerful concept in the book that may do the most to bring this about is the assertion by McFall that "The most caring and human psychological services are those that have been shown empirically to be the most effective, efficient, and safe.  Genuine caring requires the highest level of scientific rigor.  Anything less, no matter how well intentioned, is likely to yield less beneficial results for the individuals being served" (p. 129).  If you really do care about people, you do the best job you can.  That hardly seems controversial, but a large element in the real world of  practice fights it.  The resistance to standards of  rigorous science-derived practice is often hidden  behind claims of compassion and caring so that true emotional involvement is seen as other than a cold, objective science.

The next most crucial step is Dawes' observations about hortatory and minatory standards.  It is not enough to put forth nice, vague, positive goals or hortatory standards which exhort people to do good things.  There must also be clear and unambiguous standards stating unequivocally what is not to be done.  This is the same as the damnatus clauses in the 16th century confessional statements of the reforming  churches.  This we believe.  This we condemn.  If there are no limits set by clearly stating what is not acceptable, the positive exhortations fall victim to our endless ability to cleverly distort and twist the meaning of anything we want.

This book should be read carefully by all psychologists who care about people and their profession.  It is a clarion call to do battle with the forces that continue to obfuscate and impede the progress toward setting forth scientific standards of what is done in the applied world of practice.  There is no more important volume to be had.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota 55057.

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