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Another first for Women’s College Hospital and women’s mental health

August 19, 2013

Anne Oakley A first-of-its-kind study on brief relational-cultural therapy by Women’s College Hospital psychotherapists found women who took part in the research showed improved mental health in the short and long term.

The brief relational-cultural therapy model, developed by Anne Oakley and Shirley Addison of the Brief Psychotherapy Centre for Women (BPCW) and other members of the research team is based on the relational-cultural theory developed at the Jean Baker Miller Institute in Massachusetts. The theory suggests that the sources of many mental health difficulties and their solutions can be found in interpersonal relationships and societal roles.

“Our study is unique in that although clients in the research did not receive a psychiatric diagnosis, they significantly improved on tests for depression, anxiety, self-esteem, self-acceptance and expression of emotion,” said Oakley.

The outcome study published in the international Psychotherapy Research journal earlier this year showed that clients’ therapeutic gains were maintained at three and six month followup. A BPCW client evaluation questionnaire showed positive changes for personal effectiveness, quality of relationships, understanding the effects of power differentials and of women’s status in society on their emotional well-being. This enhanced the clinical significance of the results.

Shirley Addison

In brief relational-cultural therapy, clients are actively involved in their own care by collaboratively developing individual therapy goals with the therapist during 16 sessions. After therapy, clients are given two followup sessions at three months and one year. The atmosphere and clinical and organizational practices of the centre encourage women to feel comfortable and safe in the therapy context. 

“BPCW’s groundbreaking research supports the efficacy of brief relational-cultural therapy and will expand the use of this highly effective model to many more treatment sites,” said Judy Jordan, director, Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, Wellesley Centers for Women.

In addition to the published study, the centre also celebrated 25 years of service to clients and collaboration with the community last month. Click here to read more about the anniversary event.

The funding for this multi-year study came from the Ontario Women’s Health Council, Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.

Moving forward, Oakley and Addison are working to get the BRCT model published in a psychotherapy training manual. 

The brief relational-cultural therapy model

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