edited by Arthur M. Nezu and Christine Maguth Nezu; New York, Oxford University Press, 2007, 512 pages, $65
Dr. Fisher is affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, Worcester State Hospital, Worcester, Massachusetts.
Research methods for assessing the effectiveness of behavioral health interventions are complicated, and these methods become ever more sophisticated as more factors are identified that can undermine the validity of research studies. For many clinicians with little research training—or for those whose graduate training took place when Ronald Reagan was president—reading the contemporary research literature or participating in research projects may prove daunting.
For those who have wanted to update their familiarity with how contemporary research is conducted, how data are analyzed, and how the ethical concerns posed by research are addressed, there have been few readable texts and certainly few convenient ways to access this knowledge. Enter this excellent book by Nezu and Nezu. As one who has been an ardent consumer of methodological works over the years, I must say this one strikes me as unique. Indeed, use of the word practical in the title immediately suggests that this book offers something different.
The volume begins with two chapters discussing conceptual issues related to threats to validity in randomized control trials. This is followed by the second section, which includes three papers loosely grouped under the heading of "Assessment Issues." These discuss clinical interviews, behavioral assessment, and issues with self-report. The third section, "Methodological Issues," includes eight chapters, each of which addresses a critical topic in the design of randomized controlled trials, including sample size, recruitment, research designs, efficacy and effectiveness, and treatment and integrity in research designs. The highly readable papers in this section also address concepts, such as fidelity to treatment and other issues, which were beginning to be the focus of concern a decade or so ago but have become major concerns in contemporary research design.
The fourth section, titled "Data Analysis," covers some of the statistical issues that are currently receiving attention from researchers and are part of the routine discourse around research projects, including a discussion of some of the newer approaches to data analysis, such as growth curves and the estimation and presentation of effect sizes. Finally, under the heading of "Special Topics," three papers address a set of interesting, if not directly interrelated topics, such as ethical issues and multisite intervention studies.
Evidence-Based Outcome Research is designed primarily for those interested in research on new approaches to psychotherapy and other behavioral interventions. Its readership should not be limited to those working in these areas, however. Indeed, mental health services researchers could find an extraordinary amount of useful information in this volume. The papers are all clearly written. The data analysis papers present some statistical formulas, but nothing in the discussion of these concepts is daunting. This volume is strongly recommended for persons who will be a part of any research endeavor, those wishing to be more knowledgeable consumers of published research, and persons who want to update their knowledge of research methods.