Promising Leads for Research
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Promising Leads for Research

Research Recommendations from Elliott, Greenberg & Lietaer (in press):

1. While the field of experiential therapy research has made substantial progress during the past 10 years, more research in needed. For one thing, it is essential to clarify the parameters of client response in well-researched areas such as depression, for example, by studying the use of person-centered therapy with depressed adolescents (e.g., Brent et al., 1997) or by trying to optimize treatments (e.g., comparing more vs. less process-directive experiential therapies). Experiential therapy research has achieved momentum; now it is essential that this momentum be maintained! Experiential therapists and others looking for resources to help them begin doing research may find it useful to check out this website for measures, as well as research studies and abstracts, and research protocols. Additional bibliographies can be found at:

2. The following promising client problem areas warrant development as substantial areas of research, including severe client problems, anger and aggression, and health-related problems.

3. Research on health outcomes and costs in needed. The initial evidence reviewed suggests that health consequences are a neglected but important topic for outcome research. Furthermore, if experiential therapists continue to seek funding and training support from government and private insurance, cost research is needed to justify the investment of "other people's money." The recent study of King and colleagues (2000) is a good start in this direction, but much more and more sophisticated research is needed.

4. Elaboration of emotion theory by Greenberg (e.g., Greenberg & Paivio, 1997) and others has led to greater appreciation of how emotion is expressed in the human brain, as part of a dynamic, three-way interaction between brain processes, behavior and experience. Such a systemic view is nonreductionist and entirely consistent with humanistic principles. Following from this, over the next 10 years, we hope to see brain scanning methods applied to studying change in clients in experiential therapies.

5. In order to stay in the research game, experiential therapists need not simply to attack previous attempts to develop criteria for designating experiential therapies as empirically supported, but to develop alternative criteria which are more appropriate to the assumptions and goals of experiential therapies (Elliott, 2000).


Brent, D.A., Holder, D., Kolko, D., Birmaher, B., Baugher, M., Roth, C., & Johnson, B. (1997). A clinical psychotherapy trial for adolescent depression comparing cognitive, family, and supportive treatment. Archives of General Psychitary, 54, 877-885.

Elliott, R. (September, 2000). Proposed criteria for demonstrating empirical support for humanistic and other therapies: Working draft.

Greenberg, L.S. & Paivio, S. (1997). Working with emotions in psychotherapy. New York: Guilford.

King, M., Sibbald, B., Ward, E., Bower, P., Lloyd, M., Gabbay, M., & Byford, S. (2000). Randomised controlled trial of non-directive counselling, cognitive-behavior therapy and usual general practitioner care in the management of depression as well as mixed anxiety and depression in primary care. Health Technology Assessment, 4 (19).

(Adapted from: Robert Elliott, Leslie S. Greenberg & Germain Lietaer, Research on Experiential Psychotherapies, chapter to appear in M. Lambert, A. Bergin, & S Garfield (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (5th ed.), New York: Wiley.)

If you have research ideas and would like to share them, please submit them to Robert Elliott, Department of Psychology, University of Toledo, Ohio 43606 USA (e-mail:


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