Following decades of psychosocial treatment research the field has established numerous evidence-based practices (EBPs) for mental disorders, but has struggled to widely disseminate these practices in community settings. Exposure therapy for anxiety disorders represents one of the most glaring examples of this research to practice gap. A well-known barrier to the dissemination and quality delivery of exposure therapy is therapists? negative beliefs about its potential danger or intolerability for patients. These beliefs are common even among therapists who report receiving specialized training; thus, research is needed to develop targeted training strategies for reducing negative beliefs and improving delivery quality. Preliminary research suggests specific behavioral strategies (i.e., self-exposure) may reduce negative beliefs above and beyond standard didactic trainings (Farrell, Kemp et al., 2016). Building upon these findings, we propose a novel experimental therapeutics approach to developing and testing a targeted behavioral training for augmenting negative beliefs in a sample of community mental health professionals. The first phase of the study is a case-series analysis for establishing target engagement (i.e., belief reduction) and determining adequate dosing of the behavioral strategies. Phase two is a randomized trial of the behaviorally-enhanced training strategies (BeTS) against a standard didactic protocol. Therapist will complete a day-long workshop followed by weekly consultation while delivering exposure for children with anxiety disorders. The goal is to demonstrate increased effectiveness for the BeTS condition in reducing negative beliefs during training and increasing the quality with which therapists deliver exposure. In- session delivery behavior will be recorded and examined using a validated micro-analytic coding system. This study will establish an innovative model for developing a targeted training intervention capable of increasing the dissemination and quality of exposure therapy and other EBPs.
This project will test behavioral training strategies for enhancing the quality and dissemination of exposure therapy for individuals with anxiety disorders. We anticipate the behavioral strategies will target specific negative beliefs about exposure that often prevent therapists from using exposure, or lead to reduced quality of delivery. Results of this study will establish a new model for developing a targeted therapist training intervention.