Mar 02 2007

Does Psychotherapy Work?

Published by at 1:56 pm under Counseling & Psychotherapy

Yes. Most therapists will tell you that psychotherapy is very beneficial. We can see it every time we meet with a client.

Clients dealing with the symptoms of depression, fatigue, poor self-esteem, unable to get to sleep or waking up during the night, poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, and feelings of hopelessness get better. They become more optimistic, have more energy, sleep better, eat better and feel more hopeful.

Many research studies over the last 100 years also confirm that psychotherapy is very beneficial. A study done in 1995 by Consumers Report concluded that patients benefitied substantially from psychotherapy.

During their annual survey in 1994, 7,000 people responded to a series of questions exploring the effectiveness of mental health services. Of the 7,000 who responded, 4,100 people were treated by mental health professionals and about 2,900 talked to friends, relatives and clergy. About 1,300 joined self-help groups.

The results of this widely documented study confirmed that psychotherapy was indeed beneficial. The following is a summary of the study’s conclusions. For more information, follow the link, Consumers Report, to the study itself.

  • Treatment by a mental health professional usually worked. Most respondents got a lot better.
  • Averaged over all mental health professionals, of the 426 people who were feeling very poor when they began therapy, 87% were feeling very good, good, or at least so-so by the time of the survey. Of the 786 people who were feeling fairly poor at the outset, 92% were feeling very good, good, or at least so-so by the time of the survey.
  • Long-term therapy produced more improvement than short-term therapy. This result was very robust, and held up over all statistical models.
  • There was no difference between psychotherapy alone and psychotherapy plus medication for any disorder (very few respondents reported that they had medication with no psychotherapy at all).
  • While all mental health professionals appeared to help their patients, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers did equally well and better than marriage counselors.
  • The advantages of long-term treatment by a mental health professional held not only for the specific problems that led to treatment, but for a variety of general functioning scores as well: ability to relate to others, coping with everyday stress, enjoying life more, personal growth and understanding, self-esteem and confidence.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) did especially well, with an average improvement score of 251, significantly bettering mental health professionals.
  • Active shoppers and active clients did better in treatment than passive recipients (determined by responses to “Was it mostly your idea to seek therapy? When choosing this therapist, did you discuss qualifications, therapist’s experience, discuss frequency, duration, and cost, speak to someone who was treated by this therapist, check out other therapists? During therapy, did you try to be as open as possible, ask for explanation of diagnosis and unclear terms, do homework, not cancel sessions often, discuss negative feelings toward therapist?”).
  • No specific modality of psychotherapy did any better than any other for any problem. These results confirm the “dodo bird” hypothesis, that all forms of psychotherapies do about equally well (Luborsky, Singer, & Luborsky, 1975). They come as a rude shock to efficacy researchers, since the main theme of efficacy studies has been the demonstration of the usefulness of specific techniques for specific disorders.
  • Respondents whose choice of therapist or duration of care was limited by their insurance coverage did worse, as presented in Table 1 (determined by responses to “Did limitations on your insurance coverage affect any of the following choices you made? Type of therapist I chose; How often I met with my therapist; How long I stayed in therapy”).

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