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Call for Papers: Special issue of Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice

Call for Papers: Special issue of Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice

The Science of Identifying Potentially Harmful Psychological Interventions: Knowns, Unknowns, and Future Directions

The vast majority of the research examining psychotherapy outcomes centers on issues of efficacy and effectiveness. Although other health specialties commonly assess potential harms resulting from treatment, psychotherapy research has been comparably silent on this point, though recent efforts by the American Psychological Association to develop clinical practice guidelines for psychologists has brought increased attention to this critical issue (e.g., Hollon et al., 2014). The Institute of Medicine standards for developing clinical practice guidelines calls for recognition of potential harms and burdens (in addition to evaluation of efficacy and other criteria). Further, Lilienfeld (2007) discussed the importance of identifying harmful treatments and of how potential harms accrue in therapy, even offering a provisional list of harmful therapies. In the subsequent decade, as additional treatment research has accumulated, more extensive information on potentially harmful therapies has emerged, as well as open questions about how to identify when iatrogenic effects may be occurring and how this information should be shared.


Accordingly, this special issue will examine the available research on potentially harmful therapies, broadly defined. Such treatments encompass interventions or therapist styles that are harmful to many who receive them across a variety of target problems, as well as harmful treatments for specific disorders. The potential range of topics for this special issue is open, covering all age ranges and presenting conditions. All final manuscripts that are invited for submission should include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Introduction to the problem area being targeted in treatment
  • Treatment(s) that are questionable for their efficacy and/or harms
    • what are the nature of the harms?
    • what is the evidence to suggest harms, and does this vary by subpopulation, setting, delivery model, etc.?
    • what iatrogenic processes may contribute to such harms?
    • the research designs that identify the nature and extent of the harms, including the strengths and limitations of these methodologies
    • what additional evidence is necessary to clarify under what conditions harms are likely to occur vs. conditions, if any, under which the intervention(s) may be helpful?
  • Consideration of related ethical issues (e.g., authors may want to consider what criteria they would deem appropriate to identify this and other interventions as harmful, and how information about this/these potentially harmful treatment(s) should be disseminated)
  • Conclusions


Proposals should take the form of an abstract of no more than 500 words (not including references) and should be submitted to the co-editors, Dean McKay ( or Amanda Jensen-Doss ( by September 15, 2018. Please direct questions to either or both of the co-editors. Invited papers will be due for submission by March 1, 2019 and will undergo a full process of peer review.

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