Have we Overestimated the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy?


From The British Psychological Society: A recent meta-analysis has raised concerns about the validity of previous studies on the effectiveness of psychotherapy, calling their methodology and sample sizes into question. Another recent study showed a correlation between receiving psychotherapy and experiencing negative personality changes.

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  1. I wish MiA would be as incisive at critiques of psychotherapy as it is with somatic interventions. For all of the poor oversight, corporate investment, poorly conducted studies, poor theory (etc. chemical imbalance), potential long lasting harm of drug/somatic treatments, psychotherapy suffers many similar issues (poor study design, tremendous bias, lack of testable theory, high cost, risks of severe negative effects) with even less oversight, possibilities of redress, less informed consent especially regarding risk/harms.

    Mental Health and mental health justice can’t just focus on psychiatric drugs.

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  2. I trained in science for many years, but when I began med school at McGill in 1952 and heard of Freud’s helping people to speak freely about what was on their minds, this seemed like a scientific approach.
    When I began psychiatric residency I found that patients seemed to naturally recover when they were helped to talk. Unfortunately though “antidepressants” had been developed, with flimsy research as it turned out, and I was threatened with firing for refusing to drug recovering patients.
    Psychotic patients were different, at first. But by great good fortune I had a gifted psychoanalytic supervisor in London, Dr Donald Winnicott, who suggested I stop talking (nonsense) and listen.
    This turned out to be the key for me, and led to the most satisfaction I had in a 50 year career.
    With some nonpsychotic patients it wasn’t always clear how effective psychotherapy had been, but with a psychotic it was night and day: from an incomprehensible nonperson alienated from the world to someone who felt human and went on to help others.
    Unfortunately the professional societies to which I belonged weren’t interested. It wasn’t biological, although one scientist patient did say she could feel her brain changing, not surprising since she changed from paranoid schizophrenia to helping homeless people.
    Many of us fled from the spirituality of religion to science, but we are filled with the spirits of the people and culture we have known. Having helpful therapists helped me and allowed me to help others.

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