The Effectiveness of Psychotherapy

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: What is known about the effectiveness of counseling and psychotherapy? Has anyone ever proven that someone with a mental or emotional problem ever gets better by going to counselor or psychologist?

Unfortunately there was no real research on the effectiveness of psychotherapy until the work of Carl Rogers in the late 1950s. He was the first to audiotape counseling sessions for research purposes. The first meta-analytic study on the effectiveness of psychotherapy didn’t occur until 1980. Smith, Glass, and Miller produced the analysis, and it is a classic study frequently cited in psychotherapeutic literature. Robert Meyers (2003) summarized what we know about counseling and psychotherapy.

1. Psychotherapy is effective.

2. Long-term treatment is better than short-term treatment.

3. No specific treatment modality is clearly better for most disorders.

4. Medication plus psychotherapy is not usually significantly better than psychotherapy alone.

5. The curative effects of psychotherapy are often more long term than those of medication alone.

6. The effective use of psychotherapy can reduce the costs of physical disorders.

7. There is no clear evidence that psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers differ in treatment effectiveness.

8. All three of these groups are more effective than counselors or long-term family doctoring.

9. Clients whose length of therapy or choice of therapy was limited by insurance or managed care did worse than those without such limits.

Though Meyers’ book was published in 2003, the above summary was probably compiled in the 1990s.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

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