The Psychotherapy, Affirmation, and Disclosure Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University, is led by Professor Barry A. Farber, a full-time member of the Clinical Psychology program and former Director of Clinical Training (1990-2016). The lab is currently conducting research in three primary areas: dishonesty (of both the therapist and client) in psychotherapy; the nature of therapist-provided positive regard (affirmation) in psychotherapy; and the nature of “informal” supervision among psychotherapy trainees.  The “technology and psychotherapy” component of this lab is now being led exclusively by Dr. George Nitzburg, a graduate of our program and currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor.  

A bit of history: Professor Farber has been doing psychotherapy research in one form or another since the late 1970s. His doctoral dissertation was on the effects of doing psychotherapy on the therapist (thankfully, these effects are mostly, though not exclusively, positive). Since then, in collaboration with his friend and colleague, Dr. Jesse Geller, he’s conducted a number of studies on representational processes in therapy (i.e., the ways that therapists, patients, and supervisees form and use internalized representations of their dyadic partner to influence the work of therapy and supervision). He’s also done work on the nature and consequences of psychological-mindedness in therapists and patients; on the effects of performing therapy on the therapist’s significant other and children; on stress and burnout in therapists; on the ways in which the therapist functions as an attachment figure; and, with previous doctoral students Valery Hazanov and Sidney Coren, on the nature of  “informal” supervision among therapy trainees. 

However, most of his work in the last 20 years—and most of the work of this research lab--has been focused in two areas: the nature and consequences of positive regard in psychotherapy (most recently in collaboration with doctoral student Jessi Suzuki); and the nature and consequences of self-disclosure in psychotherapy. In regard to this latter piece: the earliest research in this area (early 1990s) that Professor Farber and his students conducted was on patient disclosure (i.e., what patients do and don’t tell their therapists). Subsequently, with the help of numerous doctoral students (including past graduates Desnee Hall, Jodie Lane, David Roe, Kathryn Berano, Joseph Bianco, David Yourman, Dailey Pattee, Erica Saypol, Alice Sohn, Sarah Feldman, Rachel Khurgin-Bott, and Matt Blanchard; current doctoral students Melanie Love, Devlin Jackson, and Mandy Newman; and many wonderful MA students), this work has expanded both in terms of scope and modes of inquiry, Thus, investigations in this general area have now included qualitative and quantitative research on self-disclosure among therapists and supervisees; the costs and benefits of self-disclosure in therapy among women who have been abused; the temporal dimensions of client disclosure; cross-cultural differences in client disclosure; differences in disclosure patterns in therapy vs significant personal relationships; patient disclosure about therapy to significant others; the relationship of patient attachment status to disclosure in therapy; and, currently, the nature, motives, and consequences of patients’ secrets and lies, and therapists’ secrets and lies. 

Professor Farber and his students have presented aspects of this work every year at professional conferences, including SEPI (Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration), APA, and, most often, SPR (the Society for Psychotherapy Research).  In addition, there have been numerous co-authored papers published in professional journals. Currently, Professor Farber and two of his doctoral students—Matt Blanchard and Melanie Love—are working on a book, Secrets and Lies in Psychotherapy, that will be published in 2018 by APA books.