Is there a research bias or conflict of interest when it comes to commercial counseling programs? Some University of Cambridge scholars believe that this is the case. The scholars determined that many of these programs have a very low level of effectiveness, and in two thirds of the studies which have been done on psychosocial treatments involved conflicts of interest that are not disclosed. In many countries it is very common for health services and even insurers to use commercial counseling programs for everything from substance abuse to childhood issues and behavioral problems to mental health disorders. The new study casts doubt on the effectiveness that these programs have though, and the scholars point out that conflicts of interest can cloud this issue.
Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology scholar and lead author of the study on commercial counseling programs and conflict of interest issues Professor Manuel Eisner has stated “Contrary to some, I have no problem with introducing commercial programs into a national health service if decision makers and trusts come to the conclusion that a commercially disseminated treatment is more effective than their current psychosocial offerings, but this must be based on fair and transparent evidence. What you don’t want to see is an intervention system that remains as effective, or becomes less effective, despite buying in expensive programs, because you have a public goods service competing with research that has a commercial interest to publish overly optimistic findings. Policy makers in public health have a right to expect transparency about conflicts of interest in academic research.”