Research

The mandate of our research group is to enhance the quality of psychological interventions and professional services through research that examines how psychological science can inform and be informed by professional psychology. 

Our current research projects span the following areas.

Best practices in mental health

Best practices in mental health (PI: Dr. Drapeau)

Professional practice should be informed by science. Because clinicians have little time to devote to reading and analyzing research, different mechanisms need to be put in place in order to facilitate the translation and dissemination of research to practitioners. One such mechanism is practice guidelines. Regulatory bodies in Quebec (e.g., the Order of psychologists of Quebec) produce such guidelines, presumably in order to improve the clinical work of clinicians by educating them about best practices. This project aims to determine if the guidelines produced by regulatory bodies are developed according to best practices in guideline development.

Improved Access To Clinical Practice Guidelines In Canadian Psychology (Drs. Drapeau & Körner)

The issue of guidelines is central to clinical practice, as guidelines are designed to educate psychologists and to improve service delivery. While clinical practice guidelines have become common and widely used in medicine, their use remains marginal in psychology. The guidelines that are available to psychologists are not disseminated in an optimal manner and the quality of these guidelines often remains unknown. Hence, psychologists are left to identify, retrieve, and assess guidelines on their own. An online platform could allow psychologists to access guidelines and additional practice-relevant information more effectively. This research program explores the need for psychologists to develop their own online resource for practice guidelines. More specifically, we examine: what the needs of psychologists are regarding guidelines; what information about available guidelines they consider important for clinical practice; what mechanisms could be put into place to implement and to sustain an online resource for psychologists; and what types of collaborations are needed to ensure that such a resource remains viable. The goal of this research is to set the foundations for a national network of collaborators with an interest in practice guidelines, more specifically in making guidelines and relevant information about evidence-based practice available to psychologists.

The Practice of Psychotherapy in the Private Sector (PI: Dr. Drapeau)

This project includes a series of pilot studies aiming to examine private practice from different angles. To date, no study has been conducted in Quebec to examine what clinicians do in routine clinical practice, the type of clientele they treat, the services they offer, the techniques, methods and procedures they rely on, and the relative efficacy of these interventions. Likewise, no study to date has examined how service users view psychotherapy and why they chose to seek services from a psychologist.

Technique in Short-term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (PI: Dr. Drapeau)

The main objective of this study is to set the foundations of, and develop a preliminary clinical and empirical model of how therapists adjust their interventions to individual clients in short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy. Although a number of studies have examined the impact of therapist interventions on outcome-related variables, few of these studies have demonstrated positive findings, presumably because they were based on the assumption that the relation between technique, patient functioning—including traits and state—and outcome is static. This program of research examines technique in regards to key variables, defense mechanisms, and experiencing, and will contribute to the development of a dynamic model of therapist interventions in therapy.

Access to psychotherapy

Access to psychotherapy in the public system (PI: Dr. Drapeau)

This study is directed by Prof. H. Vasiliadis from the University of Sherbrooke, in collaboration with Professors A. Lesage from the University of Montreal and M. Drapeau from the MPPRG. This CIHR funded project aims to evaluate the different aspects of public funded psychotherapy that will serve as the basis and context for a second study that will evaluate, in real practice, the effectiveness and costs associated with making psychotherapy accessible to all. The project builds on a team approach and on the expertise of key clinical decision makers and researchers in Australia and the UK who participated in the implementation of guidelines that cover psychological treatment in their respective Medicare systems.

Psychotherapy process

Process and Outcome in the Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Major Depression (PI: Dr. Drapeau)

The first aim of these studies was to examine the convergent, discriminant and predictive validity of two newly-developed observer-rated methods we have developed to assess cognitive errors and coping patterns. With these projects, we also seek to examine the processes involved in the treatment of depression using cognitive and behavioural therapies. We aim to determine how therapists use -or should use different therapeutic techniques, tailoring them as needed to each individual patient-, and the effect of this on the success of treatment. These studies are some of the first in-session process studies of cognitive and behaviour therapies (CBT) aiming specifically at documenting and developing new and empirically based intervention guidelines in order to maximize treatment efficacy. Furthermore, these studies will examine other key variables in therapy, including process measures such has the alliance, patient variables such as relationship patterns, and therapist variables such as authoritarian traits.

Common Factors in Psychotherapy: Can They be Translated into Techniques? (PI: Dr. Drapeau)

While a plethora of studies have examined various common factors in psychotherapy and how they impact outcome, little is known about the extent to which clinicians capitalize on these common factors when delivering a treatment. This project aims to determine to what extent clinicians believe common factors are important in psychotherapy and, more importantly, how they translate these common factors into specific techniques.

Psychosocial interventions for individuals with chronic and/or life-threatening illnesses

Secondary Prevention of Melanoma via Skin Self-Examination (PI: Dr. Körner)

Melanoma is the deadliest and fastest growing tumour of the skin, which disproportionately affects younger and middle-aged adults.  It is now the 7th most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada. Melanomas are recognizable and highly curable in early stages, making early detection the most effective measure to reduce mortality. Skin self-examination has been shown to result in earlier diagnosis and reduced mortality risk, but has been underutilized by those at high-risk. The main objective of the current project is to investigate the psychosocial barriers and facilitators (e.g., distress, coping strategies, partner support, physician support) of skin self-examination using on a rigorous and clinically sound methodology. The identification of short and long-term predictors of skin self-examination and an increased understanding of barriers will allow health care professionals to better address patient difficulties in adhering to this life-saving health behaviour. Furthermore, findings will enable the development and evaluation of evidence-based, comprehensive intervention strategies.

Self-help Intervention for Coping with Cancer (PI: Dr. Körner)

In response to rapidly growing health care costs, it is increasingly being recommended that minimal interventions for the treatment of mental and physical conditions be offered before more intensive treatment options are pursued. Patient education and bibliotherapy are low-cost interventions frequently employed as a minimal intervention. Yet, research on the effectiveness of low-intensity interventions such as bibliotherapy is extremely rare in psychosocial oncology. This study uses a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the efficacy of the self-help format of a psychoeducational, cognitive-behavioural coping skills program (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01718574) to enhance self-regulation and wellbeing in cancer patients.

Development and validation of psychological measures

The Couples Coping Project (Co-PIs: Dr. Körner & Danielle Brosseau, PhD Cand.)

When involved in a committed intimate relationship, the diagnosis and treatment of cancer has an effect on both the patient and their partner. Dyadic efficacy is a term that captures the process through which couples work together as a unit to cope with a stressful event. To our knowledge, there is no known measure of dyadic efficacy that allows for a greater understanding of how couples work together as a team to cope with cancer. Building on research completed among other health populations, the current study involves designing a tool to measure the extent to which dyadic efficacy is experienced among cancer patients and their intimate partners.

Self-compassion and well-being

Self-compassion and well-being (PI: Dr. Körner)

While not universally endorsed, the most widely used definition of self-compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff’s conceptualization of the construct as encompassing three bipolar dimensions: a) the presence of self-kindness in contrast to self-judgment; b) a sense of common humanity referring to the recognition that failure and hardship are shared human experiences as opposed to a sense of isolation; and c) mindfulness rather than over-identification with negative thoughts and emotions (Neff, 2003). Self-compassion, typically operationalized as the total score of the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS; Neff, 2003b), has been shown to be related to increased psychological well-being and lower depression in students of the social sciences, users of psychology websites and psychotherapy patients. Our research team is working toward reliable and valid ways of assessing self-compassion, and examining the link between self-compassion and depressive symptomatology. We are also interested in self-compassion as a psychological characteristic that fosters resilience when facing interpersonal, mental, or physical challenges.