Is Psychotherapy Getting Better?: A Progress Report on the Science-And Art-Of Our Profession

By Cole, Diane | Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 2012 | Go to article overview

Is Psychotherapy Getting Better?: A Progress Report on the Science-And Art-Of Our Profession


Cole, Diane, Psychotherapy Networker


Is Psychotherapy Getting Better?

A Progress Report on the Science--and Art--of Our Profession

By Diane Cole

This article's title poses a challenging question, to be sure--one filled with ambiguity and open to multiple answers. Getting better than what? Getting better, in what way? Getting better, according to whom? And the real kicker: Can we get better--and how? But if these tough questions are to be asked, there would seem to be no more fitting occasion than this magazine's 30th anniversary and the opportunity it provides to reflect on an era in the field of psychotherapy during which systematic efforts to quantify and measure the key factors in the psychotherapeutic process received more attention than ever before.

In a sense, the story of how to assess the effectiveness of therapy and how it might be improved began in 1952, 30 years before the first issue of this magazine appeared. In a classic paper that year, outspoken behavior therapist Hans Eysenck, one of the field's leading provocateurs at that time, took on psychotherapy. A staunch believer in science, he'd later be the subject of bomb threats and publicly punched in the nose by a protestor for his controversial views on genetics and IQ differences. The paper that concerns us here, "The Effects of Psychotherapy: An Evaluation," asserted there was no proof that psychotherapy worked. On the contrary, he claimed that surveys showed that patients suffering from clinical neuroses improved after two years, whether or not they were treated by a psychotherapist.

"In the absence of agreement between fact and belief," he proclaimed, "there is urgent need for a decrease in the strength of belief, and for an increase in the number of facts available. Until such facts as may be discovered in a process of rigorous analysis support the prevalent belief in therapeutic effectiveness of psychological treatment, it seems premature to insist on the inclusion of training in such treatment in the curriculum of the clinical psychologist." Eysenck concluded that the shortcomings of data "highlight the necessity of properly planned and executed experimental studies into this important field."

The first blast had been fired, and it was up to the profession to answer the challenge. Whatever its origins in Freud's grand speculations and couch-based methodology, psychotherapy's modern quest for scientific legitimacy may be said to have begun here.

From the get-go, however, measurement issues loomed: How do you go about proving psychotherapy really is more effective than a placebo or more helpful than a friendly, sympathetic listener? How do you determine objective measures with which to identify, define, and quantify the variable, and sometimes intangible-seeming, factors and aspects that contribute to a successful course of treatment? Moreover, as you go about establishing the science of psychotherapy, what happens to the intuitive art of psychotherapy? Until recently, this divide between objective science and intuitive art characterizing the uneasy relationship between psychotherapy's researchers and practitioners has appeared unbridgeable.

A 2009 press release from the Association for Psychological Science, an organization formed by researchers who felt the American Psychological Association (APA) had become more of a guild than a scientific organization, carried the headline "Where's the science? The sorry state of psychotherapy." The release's lead paragraph reads like an indictment: "The prevalence of mental health disorders in this country has nearly doubled in the past 20 years. Who is treating all these patients? Clinical psychologists and therapists are charged with the task, but many are falling short by using methods that are out of date and lack scientific rigor." It goes on to cite a study suggesting that, in the absence of such scientific rigor, "six out of every seven sufferers were not getting the best care available from their clinicians. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Is Psychotherapy Getting Better?: A Progress Report on the Science-And Art-Of Our Profession
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.