Introducing PACFA’s new Evidence-Informed Practice Statement

The Research Committee is pleased to present to members PACFA’s new ‘Evidence-Informed Practice Statement’. This has been developed by the Committee over several months, building on the previous Committee’s work in crafting an earlier statement.

This new document acknowledges the earlier investment in a clear statement of a position for PACFA, and the members of the psychotherapy and counselling profession that PACFA represents, in the value of and adherence to the use of evidence in professional practice. Such a statement places our profession within the contemporary paradigm that requires evidence to underpin publicly funded health services, and enables funders to consider our profession as having equal validity as others.

There are several significant differences between the new statement and the earlier one.

The first major difference is that this statement champions ‘Evidence-Informed’ rather than ‘Evidence-Based’ Practice. While definitions of what is considered evidence-based practice vary from the very inclusive definition provided by Sacket et al ‘an approach to care that integrates the best available research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values’ (2000, p. 1), EBP is also sometimes understood more narrowly as being based on knowledge generated in experimental research often through large scale randomised controlled trials that are considered the best evidence in some knowledge hierarchies.

In a number of related health fields, there is a growing use of the term ‘evidence-informed’ that also gives credence to a variety of sources of evidence that are valued by psychotherapists and counsellors, including their practice expertise and information from clients.

PACFA has chosen to use the term Evidence-Informed Practice for these reasons and because of Common Factors research that shows equivalence of effect for different approaches and therefore justifies an assumption of effectiveness as a starting point. This term is also considered to be more compatible with the full breadth of research approaches that are relevant to our field, including Indigenous methodologies, inclusive research approaches and case study research.

The second significant change is that this statement does not use definitions or a statement from another body directly in offering PACFA’s position. The Research Committee decided it was appropriate that PACFA stated clearly what it views as evidence, and how practitioners should use it, rather than quoting what another organisation has decided. That doesn’t mean that PACFA has not considered the work of other organisations in coming to this current statement. The Committee has taken an evidence-informed approach and done much research and consideration of approaches taken in other countries and like professions to reach the definition we offer here.

The Statement is short, only one page, to enable it to be useful for funders, employers and clients. Thus it does not include the complexity of thinking and arguments that have underpinned it. Perhaps a journal article on this topic will be a future task for the Committee.

We encourage all members to read the Statement and follow its recommendations for the use of evidence to inform their practice. We encourage members to promote the Statement too to employers, funders and clients, and in so doing advance the standing of the psychotherapy and counselling profession. We welcome comments and suggestions as well, and intend that the Statement continues to be shaped and developed as the profession advances.

The Research Committee plans a webinar to introduce the Statement and what it means for the profession and practitioners in late October. The details are still to be confirmed.

Research Committee members:

Dr Kim Dunphy, Chair
Dr Alexandra Bloch-Atefi
Dr Elizabeth Day
Dr Angela Mornane
Gina O’Neill
Dr Tristan Snell