Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Surprising Secret to Successful Psychotherapy

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Surprising Secret to Successful Psychotherapy

Article excerpt

The surprising secret to successful psychotherapy

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Edward A. Johnson, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Manitoba

As a clinical psychologist and educator, I am often asked to recommend a psychotherapist for people in need. These requests come with a sense of urgency to find the best possible therapist. Many people are at a loss over what to look for.

Here I offer an answer, not just to the question of what makes for a great therapist, but what else helps make therapy work. Decades of research on what improves psychotherapy outcomes yields surprising answers.

Curiously, some things that could matter a lot don't. These include the therapist's experience, gender, profession or graduate degree, and even the school of therapy practised. In fact, differences among therapists account for only five per cent of the variability in treatment outcomes.

Of course, five per cent is not nothing and I'll come back to what makes up these therapist differences. However, it is clear we need to look elsewhere to discover what else makes therapy work.

Be willing to endure discomfort

First, it's important to know that, in general, psychotherapy is highly effective. Across a wide range of psychological problems and many different types of people, therapy simply works.

For some, the benefits of therapy can be obtained in as few as seven sessions, while others need more to improve. Considering that many untreated problems last for years, or even a lifetime, psychotherapy can be life-changing.

If the particular therapist and type of therapy received are not as important as we thought, who or what does influence outcome?

To a large extent it's the client. The quality of a patient's participation in therapy is a key determinant of the outcome. …

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