One in Three Report Side Effects from Psychodynamic and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

New study reveals 33.2% of therapy patients experience side effects, including strained family relations and symptom deterioration.

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According to a new article published in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, approximately 33.2% of individuals who undergo therapy experience side effects. Tim Balder of Charité University led the study, finding that “strains in family relations” and “deterioration of symptoms” were the most commonly reported side effects. The research also revealed that individuals with more severe symptoms reported more side effects.

The authors write:

“There was at least one side effect in 33.2% of the cases. The most frequent side effects were “strains in family relations” and “deterioration of symptoms.” Illness severity significantly influences the amount of side effects reported. The data confirm that side effects of psychotherapy are frequent.”

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for reporting some scholarship on issues with psychotherapy rather than than just going along with meds bad therapy good often seen with MiA news.

    There are certainly limitations to this study, but it does behoove therapist organizations to be more accountable regarding informed consent processes beyond mere legal obligation to recognizing that treatments come with high risk of negative consequences, and to talk through the worthwhileness of treatment for the patient considering this and to talk through how to mitigate “side effects” as they come up in treatment.

    Also note that this is just from therapist perspective, and patients may have a different take.

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    • “…this is just from therapist perspective…”.

      This is what’s wrong with the “mental health system”: it’s made by therapists for therapists where “patients” are seen as defective objects to be fixed with “success” measured by the therapist’s agenda. Totally arbitrary and totally nauseating.

      Psychodynamic: this can be re-traumatizing.

      Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: this can shut down people who need to be listened to.

      Maybe all someone needs are people who help them feel safe to do what feels right TO THEM, instead of pressured to “do the work” just to please some agenda-possessed “therapist”.

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  3. its astonishing how little interest there is in the harms caused by psychotherapy and how many therapists appear blissfully unaware that therapy can and does harm people.

    It is also remarkable that psychotherapy persists given the dire state of the research base – try William M Epstein’s three key books – The illusion of Psychotherapy, Psychotherapy as religion and Psychotherapy and the social clinic in the united states, soothing fictions to be left i no doubt how terrible the research actually is.

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  4. My impression from years of practice and reading the literature is that in treatment of moderate to severe Major Depression with an antidepressant, about 33% have a complete response, another 33% have a partial response, and 33% have no response. If an augmentation medication is added, those percentages improve. On the other hand when psychotherapy is the method of treatment, about 33% have a complete response, another 33% have a partial response, and about 33% have no response. The best results are seen with combined therapy.

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  5. I don’t see that this work is very helpful.

    Going into therapy often results in problems with one or more family members. Those family members are likely part of the original problem; they don’t really want the person to get better.

    The person could leave the house announcing “I’m going to therapy now” and just go take a walk for an hour and come back and have some family member react poorly.

    Further, why would we see therapy as having “side effects” the same way that drugs do? Both may be considered “treatments” but it is a false equivalence. Therapy addresses a whole different set of factors compared to what drugs address.

    So I am not the least impressed by the fact that some people “feel worse” or “have family problems” while they are in therapy. For all I know, these may be signs that the therapy is working! Therapy is a whole different ball game compared to taking meds. It should not really be treated as equivalent in any way.

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