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How Mental Health Professionals Can Stay Up To Date On Mental Health Research

April 19, 2024


A sad looking woman sitting on a couch in front of a therapist during an in person visit

In the mental health field, much of the clinical knowledge mental health professionals hold may be based on the fundamental concepts learned during education and training. However, researchers are constantly gaining new insights about human cognition, behavior, and neurobiology, which may be applied to help clinicians develop better interventions and refine existing theories.

To remain at the forefront of best practices, it can be critical for counselors to stay current in their knowledge of mental health advances. However, research may be scattered across various publications, making it necessary to use databases to find studies, ideas, and clinical trials.  

The guide below may help you navigate some of the more established research and counseling databases available and offer practical tips for searching and accessing scholarly materials. With an understanding of how and where to find up-to-date research in psychology, psychotherapy, and social work, you can adapt your therapeutic approach to the latest evidence-based practices.

Tips For Effectively Using Research Databases

Current scientific research can be one of the most valuable assets when providing evidence-based care, making research skills beneficial for any clinician. 

Whether you are looking to validate a therapeutic approach, explore the efficacy of a specific treatment, or understand a mental health condition more deeply, a national database for counselors can offer empirical evidence to guide you. However, unlike performing quick online searches, these databases often require specific search strategies and can be more time-consuming. Below are a few tips for using psychology databases. 

Use Precise Search Queries

If you have difficulty focusing your search, consider the keywords you use. A well-phrased query may return more relevant results and reduce time spent sifting through unrelated articles. A database thesaurus may help you identify standardized terms and synonyms commonly used in the field. 

Use Boolean Operators And Filters

Boolean operators are words like “and,” “or,” and “not” that can help you refine your search. For instance, the search terms “anxiety AND children” may bring up articles discussing both topics. Similarly, filters can help you exclude specific results, such as those published before a certain date or those not from peer-reviewed journals. 

Look For Reviews And Meta-Analyses

Reviews and meta-analyses may be especially valuable for clinicians looking to stay updated with current research and best practices. Reviews are systematic examinations and syntheses of existing literature on a particular topic and can offer a comprehensive and critical overview of the available evidence. Reviews often conclude with recommendations or guidelines based on the evidence provided, which may inform your approach to practice. 

Read Full Articles

In some cases, you may only be able to access an abstract of a study. While this abstract may provide an overview, it is not an appropriate substitute for reading the article in its entirety. Thus, it may be necessary to take the time to access a copy of the full copy. While some databases are only accessible through an institution, you can often access articles through other means. 

If the article is not immediately available for viewing, you may be able to find a copy of the whole article by other means, including:

  • Accessing other databases, such as those listed below
  • Using open-access journals
  • Accessing professional networking platforms like ResearchGate or
  • Requesting a copy from the author via email

While it may take extra time and effort, reading the full article ensures you can review and assess the evidence and develop a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. This process can also help you identify issues with methodology or bias.

A diverse group of individuals gathered around sitting down during a group therapy session

Remain Open-Minded But Critical

Although researchers may take the utmost care in designing and conducting their studies, there may be times when methodological flaws or biases creep into the research process. Thus, it may be valuable to approach new research with a critical eye and consider multiple perspectives before drawing conclusions. 

If you come across research that challenges your current perspective, try to keep an open mind and consider the evidence presented. By maintaining a balance of open-mindedness and healthy skepticism, you can become an expert in scientific knowledge. 

Subscribe And Set Up Alerts

Subscribing to journals, RSS feeds, and industry publications can help you keep up with what’s happening in the world of mental health. You can also set up alerts for specific topics, authors, or keywords, ensuring you keep up with the latest research in your areas of interest and specialization.

An Overview Of Key Counseling Databases

The following databases are the most popular and effective research tools for mental health professionals, offering options for filtering results and finding up-to-date studies. 

Google Scholar

While not explicitly a counseling database, Google Scholar can be an effective first stop for practitioners seeking academic research. You can easily filter results, access full-text versions, and set up alerts on specific topics or authors. Note that Google Scholar frequently returns results for which you can only access the abstract, making it necessary to perform an additional search to find the article in a different database or request a copy from the authors.

APA Databases

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a range of databases centering on behavioral science and mental health. These include peer-reviewed literature, full-text books, and unique resources like demo videos, conference presentations, and test instruments.


Managed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), this database contains millions of citations from scientific journals and online books. This database is used by professionals, researchers, and academic institutions worldwide and offers a vast library of biomedical literature.

Family & Society Studies Worldwide

Designed for professionals in social work, social sciences, and family practice, this database contains coverage of research, public policy, and practice literature across the social sciences. You can access this database via EBSCO through your library, institution, or organization. 


Scopus is the academic publisher of Elsevier’s abstract and citation base, containing over 75 million records from scientific journals, books, and conference proceedings. You can access SCOPUS through your institution or organization.

Cochrane Library

The Cochrane Library can be an excellent resource for systematic reviews and highly rigorous research. Through this platform, you may access trustworthy, scientifically sound evaluations of pathology and treatment, ensuring your approach is based on the most reliable evidence.


JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources. You can access JSTOR through your library or institution and easily search its vast collection using keywords, authors, titles, or subjects. 

SAGE Knowledge

SAGE Knowledge is a research platform with a wide variety of social science content, including books, videos, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. Unlike other databases that mostly center on published research, SAGE Knowledge contains informational materials aimed at helping individuals develop a practical and theoretical understanding of topics.

Web Of Science

Web of Science is a research database and citation index with an extensive collection of scholarly literature. With an institutional login, you may access valuable research for informing your practice.

Counseling And Therapy In Video

Though not technically a research database, the Counseling and Therapy in Video unique platform and research tool offers a library of videos of face-to-face counseling sessions, allowing clinicians to observe various therapeutic techniques, client interactions, and therapeutic progress in real-time. This resource may be invaluable for novice and experienced therapists alike. 

Two men sitting on a couch while having an in person consultation with a therapist

Additional Counselor Resources

In addition to scholarly databases, therapists may consider accessing research and up-to-date information through other avenues, including the following. 

Professional Journals

Psychotherapy journals regularly submit the latest findings and discussions tailored for mental health practitioners in any department. While subscriptions may be relatively expensive, journals remain one of the best ways to stay updated with any advance in the field. 

Conferences And Webinars

Professional associations, CE providers, and universities often host conferences and webinars that cater to mental health professionals. These events can be valuable learning and networking opportunities and often include presentations and discussions about the latest research and trends in mental health.

Continuing Education Programs

CE offers a structured way to keep up with what’s happening in mental health. Look for CE opportunities that center on exploring new findings, such as article- or book-based exams. You may also find presentations or webinars covering the most current research-backed best practices.

Online Spaces For Therapists

As psychotherapy is a science-based field, your industry peers often discuss the latest research and techniques in online forums, social media groups, and professional networks. is a community offering access to the latest industry news, best practices, and research-based CE opportunities. 

Remote Work Options For Therapists

Therapists and clients can sometimes face barriers in seeking mental health services. In these cases, it may be beneficial to try online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, which have benefits for providers and individuals alike. 

Through online counseling programs and platforms, clients can sign up to get matched with a provider and partake in phone, video, or live chat sessions. Providers working for the platform can choose their workload and take on as many or as few clients as they’d like. In addition, clients can access unique tools like journal prompts, worksheets, and support group sessions.

Studies also back up the effectiveness of online therapy. One study found that online treatment could be more effective than face-to-face methods in reducing symptom severity and offered more affordability and quality of life.


Navigating research and counseling databases may take time and effort. Still, they serve as an invaluable resource for clinicians looking to keep their clinical skills aligned with new scientific understandings of human psychology and behavior. Use specific search queries across different databases to find relevant research. If you find an abstract or citation that you think may be helpful, you may perform an in-depth search for the full article on other platforms or contact its authors for a copy. 

You may also stay current on research by subscribing to professional journals, attending conferences and webinars, and pursuing research-based CE opportunities. Finally, online counseling communities can be valuable resources to receive information and exchange articles with other clinicians.