Does Therapy Work?
November 30th 2005
Therapy and counseling: Do they make you better? Letís look at the
evidence. People want marriage counseling. They want help with anxiety
and depression. They want therapy for their children and for their
adolescents. But they also want to know whether therapy and counseling
is scientifically proven to work.
Today, insurance companies will pay for some therapy, but
they often limit what they will pay for. The question is, does therapy
work in a scientifically proven way? And if so, what types of therapies
work better than others?
How researchers test if therapy works. It's important to
note that scientists believe experimental evidence is needed to prove
that therapy works. For instance, new drugs are tested in so-called
double-blind studies. Some people receive the experimental drug.
Other people receive a pill that looks like the drug but is
made of sugar. And the people participating in the study don't know
whether they are getting the real drug or the sugar pill. Researchers
have used a similar method to see if therapy can be proven to work. The
whole effort is to see which therapies are "evidence based." Their tool
is to use randomized controlled trials.
What randomized control trials can show is if a given
treatment has been beneficial to a wide range of people participating in
the test. What it can't show is why a particular therapy works or
The "gold standard" in evidence-based therapies is
cognitive behavioral therapy for treating people who are depressed.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT: proof that it works
for depression. In a recent study of cognitive behavioral therapy, or
CBT, half the patients who were given CBT therapy improved. So did about
half the patients who were treated with medication. Only about one
quarter of the patients who were given sugar pills improved.
This improvement took place over several months. Better
yet, many of the patients who received CBT were given three additional
sessions of therapy over the year, and they maintained their improvement
over the year.
A member of the American Psychological Association, Dr.
Hollon, says studies like this are "the gold standard" for showing what
therapies work or don't work. Talk therapy: it works if you have the
right chemistry with your therapist. Most people who come to therapy
have multiple problems they want help with.
They may feel depressed, and they also want their
relationship with their spouse and children to improve. They may feel
uncomfortable with the amount of alcohol they consume. And they may have
trouble sleeping due to thoughts that race through their head and make
That's why it isn't easy to just have someone get cognitive
behavioral therapy because it may not help them with their other
A trained and experienced therapist may use some cognitive
therapy along with other types of therapy, including psychodynamics. The
combination may help a client more than just CBT would. It turns out
that researchers have tried to find evidence for this type of more
general talk therapy, or eclectic therapy.
So, does it work? Evidence that talk therapy works:
Talk therapy has been hard for researchers to get their arms around
because each therapist does things differently with each client. To try
to classify talk therapy and see if it works, Dr. Enrico Jones,
University of California at Berkeley, developed a 100-item rating
system, called the Process Q-set, to classify video-taped therapy
sessions in an objective way.
Researchers discovered that talk therapy often involved cognitive
behavioral techniques combined with other techniques.
Some therapists used a lot of psychodynamics. Psychodynamics examines
the client's relationship with the therapist and uses elements of this
to help the client examine unconscious conflicts in a new light. It
turned out that therapists who used a lot of psychodynamics helped
people the most in improving their depression!
So what does the
research show? Therapists who combine multiple techniques according to
their client's needs and their own experience can help a client work
Copyright(c) 2005 Sponsera, LLC.
http://www.sponsera.com Sponsera provides runs the www.
CapitalCounselors.com site to connect people in need with mental
health professionals. Therapists go to
http://www.CapitalCounselors.com. For more information contact
Richard Geller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703.407.1089. This paper may
be reprinted on a website provided you do so in its entirety including
Richard founded his first successful company at age 18.
He is co-founder of a number of franchises and venture-backed companies
including Amazing Media, an advertising technology company. He has
written four business books and has given talks at the Washington Press
Club, the Wharton Club of DC, and George Washington University, among
others. He has been widely quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, Investors
Business Daily and other publications. He is currently co-CEO of a
company that provides leads to professionals such as dentists,
therapists and even dog trainers.
Keywords and misspellings: therepy