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July 2022

Studying the effectiveness of psychotherapy - How well can clinical trials do the job?

Author(s): Christensen, A.

Journal/Book: Amer Psychol. 1996; 51: 750 First St NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Amer Psychological Assoc. 1031-1039.

Abstract: Although there has been much discussion of the recent Consumer Reports (CR) study (1995) on the effectiveness of psychotherapy, there is little new information reported either in the CR article or in M. E. P. Seligman's (1995) discussion of the findings. The findings that are new are hard to interpret because of serious methodological problems. In fact, the CR study is similar in many ways to H. J. Eysenck's (1952) controversial report on the effectiveness of psychotherapy, a study that has been rejected by the field despite the fact that it avoided some of the methodological shortcomings of the CR study. It would be a mistake to put forth a design rejected in the 1950s as an exemplar of good effectiveness research, especially when better alternatives exist. Clinical trials, despite many limitations, can answer all of the questions regarding the effectiveness of psychotherapy posed by M. E. P. Seligman, without the interpretive ambiguities and other methodological problems inherent in surveys such as the one published in CR.

Note: Article NS Jacobson, Univ Washington, Dept Psychol, Clin Res Ctr, 1107 45TH St NE, Suite 310, Seattle, WA 98105 USA

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