Return to Research on the dissemination of psychological treatments

Therapist training

Scalable methods for training therapists

The need for scalable and cost-effective training

There is an immense demand for training in evidence-based psychological treatments yet the topic of therapist training has been largely neglected by researchers. The challenge is how to train all those therapists who require training – not just those who work in a particular organization, state or country, but worldwide.

Training therapists how to implement psychological treatments typically involves three components, all of which are thought to be necessary. The first is attending an introductory "workshop" given by an expert in the treatment concerned. This provides an overview of the intervention and its strategies and procedures. The second element is the reading of written material describing the treatment. The third component is thought to be particularly important: it involves supervision in implementing the treatment from someone proficient in it. The first and third components are simply not scalable, least of all in the global context. Few experts are available to give workshops nor are many people sufficiently experienced to provide supervision. New approaches to training are therefore required, ones that are far more scalable than current methods.

Web-centred training

We have developed a new form of training, termed “web-centred training”, that is designed to be both scalable and effective (Fairburn and Cooper, 2011; Fairburn and Patel, 2014).  It is capable of training large numbers of therapists simultaneously.  The training centres on the use of a specially designed training website that describes and illustrates the treatment in great detail and incorporates features to help trainees grasp key concepts and master the main procedures.  Web-centred training may be used on its own (independent training) or it can be accompanied by support from a non-specialist “guide” (guided training).  Even with guidance web-centred training is highly scalable. 

CREDO has developed two therapist training websites for use in this way, one for CBT-E and the other for behavioural activation for depression (BA).  The latter website has been developed in close collaboration with Professor Christopher Martell.  Both websites are interactive in nature and include an extensive “library” of acted illustrations of the treatment, something that is impossible to provide in conventional workshops. 

Web-centred training is currently being evaluated.  Three studies have been completed or are in progress:

  1. A large-scale pilot study has taken place across Ireland.  This focused on the effectiveness of guided web-centred training in CBT-E.  The findings are being analysed.
  2. We have just completed recruiting therapists across North America for a randomised comparison of guided and independent web-centred training in CBT-E. 
  3. We are now recruiting therapists for a cohort study of web-centred training in either CBT-E or behavioural activation (see CREDO news).
Further Reading

Fairburn CG, Cooper Z. Therapist competence, therapy quality, and therapist training. Behaviour Research and Therapy 2011; 49: 373-378.

Fairburn CG, Patel V. The global dissemination of psychological treatments: A road map for research and practice. American Journal of Psychiatry 2014; 171: 495-498.

Cooper Z & Bailey-Straebler S. Disseminating evidence-based psychological treatments for eating disorders.  Current Psychiatry Reports 2015; 17: 12.