Guidelines Clinical Practice
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World J Methodol. Sep 26, 2011; 1(1): 4-11
Published online Sep 26, 2011. doi: 10.5662/wjm.v1.i1.4
Improving psychotherapy research: The example of mindfulness based interventions
Alberto Chiesa
Alberto Chiesa, Institute of Psychiatry, University of Bologna, Viale Carlo Pepoli 5, 40123 Bologna, Italy
Author contributions: Chiesa A solely contributed to this paper.
Correspondence to: Alberto Chiesa, MD, Institute of Psychiatry, University of Bologna, Viale Carlo Pepoli 5, 40123 Bologna, Italy.
Telephone: +39-51-6584233 Fax: +39-51-521030
Received: July 27, 2011
Revised: September 6, 2011
Accepted: September 19, 2011
Published online: September 26, 2011

The increasing number and sophistication of available psychotherapies suggests that a critical appraisal of the methodological issues of psychotherapy studies is highly needed. Several key questions regarding the efficacy of a given intervention, the understanding of whether positive effects observed following the delivery of a psychotherapeutic intervention are specifically attributable to the intervention itself or to other “non specific” factors, such as benefit expectations, therapist attention and support, and the possibility of improving psychotherapy research need an answer. This, in turn, could provide clinicians with more rigorous information about psychotherapy outcomes and could properly address several shortcomings that are frequently observed in current psychotherapy studies. Accordingly, in this editorial I will highlight some of the most important critical issues that a well designed psychotherapy study should take into account, including the need for appropriate control groups, appropriate randomization and blinding procedures, and the importance of performing appropriately powered studies that include a sufficiently long follow-up period. Finally, I will build on my expertise in the field of mindfulness based interventions, in particular mindfulness based stress reduction and mindfulness based cognitive therapy, to show how such issues have been and can be successfully implemented in the design of future psychotherapy studies.

Keywords: Randomized controlled trials, Blinding, Non-specific factors, Mindfulness, Meditation