There are some key distinctions between Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) in a psychotherapeutic context and a medical context. There are key differences between the design of an RCT to evaluate a new drug and an RCT to evaluate a new form of couples’ therapy. However, it is important to begin by defining and understanding the importance of RCT in research (O'Brien, 2013).
O'Brien (2013) defines RCT as a research technique that has been through the ages. It first was applied in medical studies. Today, it is a quantitative method widely used in clinical trials where participants answer or confirm a research question. Clinical trials that are designed with RCT in a medical context focus on prioritizing the protecting of human participants with the aid of ethical criteria; however, at the discretion of the researcher (O'Brien, 2013).
Randomized Controlled Trials can be used to in several types of evaluations, including new therapies (i.e. Cognitive behavioral therapy versus emotionally focused therapy when treating couples), community interventions, and diagnostic techniques (O'Brien, 2013). The RCT study design randomly assigns participants into an experimental group or a control group. As the study is conducted, the only expected difference between the control and experimental groups is the outcome variable being studied (O'Brien, 2013).
There are advantages to using RCT, firstly, there the effect of using randomization will “wash out” any population bias and it is easier to blind than observational studies (O'Brien, 2013). The results can be analyzed with reliable statistical tools and the participants can be clearly identified (O'Brien, 2013). The disadvantage of this method is that it is often expensive and time consuming. In addition, the variables being measured have to be variables between the experimental group and the control group, which can be challenging to coordinate (O'Brien, 2013).
For example, in an RCT study that of a medical context that is attempting to determine how a vegetarian diet affects the general health of individuals in comparison to a high protein diet (i.e. Adkins diet), 40 trial participants were randomly separated into equal groups of 20: an experimental group and a control group. All participants' were relatively healthy when initially evaluated. The experimental group eats large amounts of protein daily, typically meat, and the control group eats exclusively a vegetarian diet. After one year, the general health was measured in both groups and statistically analyzed. In the control group, the vegetarian diet led to improvements in general health for 90% of the participants. In the experimental group, eating a predominately protein diet led to improvements in general health for 35% of the participants.
The RCT model to evaluate a new drug requires a duty of care in a medical context. It is imperative that the researcher act in the best interests of participants, which may be in a “life...