The Great Psychotherapy Debate: Models, Methods, and Findings

By Bruce E. Wampold | Go to book overview

3
Absolute Efficacy:
The Benefits of Psychotherapy Established by Meta-Analysis

Because it is now generally accepted that psychotherapy is efficacious, many have forgotten the “tendentious and adversarial” (M. L. Smith, Glass, & Miller, 1980, p. 7) debate about the benefits of psychotherapy that cast a pallor over the psychotherapy community from the early 1950s to the middle 1980s. On the one side were those who contended that the rate of success of psychotherapy was less than or equal to the rate of “spontaneous remission.” The most notable advocates of this position were Hans J. Eysenck (1952; 1954; 1961; 1966) and S. Rachman (1971; 1977), both of whom were advocates of behavior therapy (as distinct from psychotherapy) as a paragon of scientific activity. On the other side were defenders of traditional psychotherapy, such as Saul Rosenzweig (1954), Allen Bergin (1971; Bergin & Lambert, 1978), and Lester Luborsky (1954; Luborsky, Singer, & Luborsky, 1975), who contended that Eysenck's and Rachman's claims for the ineffectiveness of psychotherapy were flawed and that the evidence supported the benefits of psychotherapy. In 1977, the first meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcomes, conducted by Mary Lee Smith and Gene V Glass (Smith & Glass, 1977), was published and changed the nature of the debate dramatically. Smith and Glass found that psychotherapy was remarkably beneficial and that the contentions of the various detractors were empirically unsupportable. In spite of criticisms of this particular meta-analysis, its sequel (viz., M. L. Smith et al., 1980), and

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