There are different types of clinical studies, including clinical trials and observational studies.
Clinical Trials test the effectiveness of treatments for disorders or illnesses. They may be performed in clinics, hospitals, or other settings. Well-performed clinical trials are essential to helping psychiatrists find new and better treatments. Such studies provide high quality evaluations and treatment for people with psychiatric disorders. Treatments may include psychotherapy, medication treatment, or other forms of care, and generally are available at no cost.
Observational Studies are research studies that have the purpose of investigating disorders or illnesses, but which do not study the effects of treatment. Like clinical trials, well-performed observational studies are essential to the progress of all branches of medicine, including psychiatry. Payment is often available for the time spent in such studies.
Clinical studies are done throughout Columbia's Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Areas of study include: depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. Adults, children, and the elderly may participate. Some studies recruit people without a disorder ("Healthy Volunteers"), to provide a comparison group for people with a disorder, or to study normal brain functioning. Participation may include various activities, such as filling out rating scales and other questionnaires, or performing tasks on a computer. Some studies include blood samples. Others do cutting-edge brain imaging, often using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanns. Still other studies do physiological measurements, testing your responses to various challenging tasks.
Studies are carefully regulated by the New York State Psychiatric Institute-Columbia University Department of Psychiatry Institutional Review Board (IRB), in order to make sure that they are performed at the highest possible medical and scientific standard, and that participants are treated ethically. Participation is voluntary, and based on providing "informed consent"—after receiving detailed information about possible risks and benefits of being in a study.