Monday, Mar 13, 2023
Dr. Stefan Dombrowski discusses the use of unsupported practices in psychology
by Keith Fernbach
Dr. Stefan Dombrowski, director of Rider University’s school psychology program, was the keynote speaker for the Australian Psychology Society’s (APS) College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists Conference.
The APS, which is Australia’s equivalent of the American Psychological Association, represents more than 29,000 members.The sold-out conference took place on Feb. 18 in Melbourne, Australia. Dombrowski delivered his presentation via Zoom.
In his keynote, “Beyond the rhetoric of evidence-based professional practice: A framework for critical thinking in clinical practice,” Dombrowski discussed psychologists’ use of assessments, tests and other counseling practices that are not supported by scientific data.
“Psychology doesn't have a governing body like the FDA,” he explains, “so there are many examples of practices that are promoted as evidence-based and used by psychology practitioners, but the evidence-base is lacking. Still, the promoters use the right kind of rhetoric and position them in a way to appear like the practices work, when they do not.”
Dombrowski’s presentation delved into how these low-value practices came into being and why psychologists continue to rely on them. He also offered recommendations for more evidence-based training, encouraged critical thinking for psychology students and discussed how these practices can be applied in the field.
There are many examples of practices that are promoted as evidence-based and used by psychology practitioners, but the evidence-base is lacking."
Dombrowski is widely known for his research in this area. He covers the topic in his book, Psychoeducational Assessment and Report Writing, which has received nearly two million chapter downloads. He also co-authored an article on the subject that was named Article of the Year in 2018 by the Journal of School Psychology, and another that received honorable mention in 2022.
In addition to having the opportunity to deliver his message on a global stage, Dombrowski is also appreciative of the attention his presentation brings to Rider.
“Speaking in front of this group of distinguished psychologists is a big honor,” he says. “I think my colleague, Dr. Karen Gischlar, and I have created a very well-recognized school psychology program, and having the University’s name attached to events such as this helps take Rider’s recognition to an international level.”
Dombrowski is hopeful that by delivering presentations such as this, he’ll be able to effect change in the psychology community.
“The marketing prowess of publishing companies has a wider reach than the capacity of research to be disseminated,” he says. “Most journals are not accessible to practicing psychologists, so they often get their practice guidelines from authors, publishers and others who have a financial stake in seeing these assessment instruments and counseling practices become widely adopted.”
He adds that he fully supports advances in psychological practices, but with stricter adherence to scientific principles. “Innovation is important, no doubt. But there needs to be a balance between innovation and critical appraisal,” he says. “And I think in my field, we frequently get caught up in the use of innovative practices before they’re properly vetted.”