The guidelines will benefit scientists as
That process ensures objectivity,
“The idea is that you want
well as practitioners because they will
the systematic review to be done
completely objectively by people
make it clear where the research leaves
who are not involved in the
formulation of the questions,” he
questions still unanswered.
members working with the steering committee.
APA already has several of what it calls “practice guidelines,”
which offer tips on providing treatment to particular
populations or in particular settings. The new treatment
guidelines will be different because they will synthesize the
research and offer treatment recommendations for specific
That will be a boon for practitioners who may be struggling
to keep up with the expanding research literature, says Bufka.
“Instead of psychologists having to read thousands of
published articles, a good guideline will have done the work of
identifying the research that’s pertinent to the clinical treatment
question, identifying the good quality studies and figuring out
explains. “They can take a fresh
look at the literature without
being concerned about how the
outcome of their review will be
used for the development of a
guideline in the future.”
Once they’re completed, the guidelines will benefit
psychological scientists as well as practitioners, he adds.
That’s because the guidelines will make it clear where the
research leaves questions still unanswered, says Kurtzman.
“That’s a great outcome for science,” he says, adding that a lack
of evidence about a given treatment doesn’t imply a lack of
effectiveness. “It will help direct future research.”
APA will likely issue a call in 2012 for suggestions of topics
for the next round of guideline development. The steering
committee has discussed oppositional-defiant disorder and
post-traumatic stress disorder as potential topics, but is open to
other suggestions. n
how all those studies come together to point in a particular
direction,” she says. “Guidelines are a tool for translating
basic research from multiple studies into what makes sense in
The guidelines aren’t intended to be absolute requirements,
adds Kurtzman. “No individual client who comes into a
psychologist’s office exactly matches the average patient who
has participated in a particular study, so there’s always room for
the clinician’s judgment,” he says. “We just want to inform the
clinician about the best and most current research.”
The members of the steering committee (see sidebar) won’t
review the literature themselves. Instead, the committee will
oversee a process of systematic reviews.
The process of developing each guideline is expected to
take up to two years. The committee will begin by pulling
together panels that may include practitioners, researchers
and consumer and patient advocates, as well as biostatisticians
and methodologists, who will work on each topic. The call
for nominations for the depressive disorders panel closed in
November; the call for nominations for the obesity panel will go
out in early 2012.
The panels will work with the steering committee to decide
what questions they hope a systematic review will answer. An
outside organization or separate office within APA will then
conduct an exhaustive review of the literature and synthesize
the findings in a way that indicates the strength of the evidence
for each treatment in specific clinical situations. The panels will
then use those systematic reviews to produce guidelines.
Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.
Treatment Guideline Steering
Chaired by Steven D. Hollon, PhD, of vanderbilt
University, the steering committee overseeeing
the production of APA’s new treatment
• Patricia A. Areán, PhD, of the University of
California, San Francisco.
• Michelle G. Craske, PhD, of the University of
California, Los Angeles.
• Kermit A. Crawford, PhD, of Boston
University School of Medicine.
• Daniel R. Kivlahan, PhD, of the veterans
Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System.
• Jeffrey J. Magnavita, PhD, of Glastonbury
• thomas h. ollendick, PhD, of virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University.
• thomas l. Sexton, PhD, of Indiana
• bonnie Spring, PhD, of northwestern