A professor of psychology astoundingly claimed in the Washington Post that psychotherapy doesn’t work, despite all the research proving it does. I wrote a rebuttal and the Post printed it. This is important stuff at any time, but especially now when clever and/or aggressive diatribes often substitute for actual information. My rebuttal contains the facts, and I reproduce it here along with an additional paragraph they omitted for space considerations. (But if you want to see it in context, it’s here. Search “Pologe” and you’ll find it about half way down.)
Talk about confirmation bias. To support his bizarre inclusion of “talking about your problems helps” as a “myth” in his April 14 Outlook essay “Five myths: Psychology,” Stephen Ilardi quotes a meta-analysis of one group-debriefing program as evidence that the “talking cure” doesn’t work, and a single study of another, similar debriefing program, this time for traffic accident victims. These two studies are hardly representative of psychotherapy research and they are studying a very circumscribed intervention: Short-term, structured group counseling. Has Dr. Ilardi not seen any of the hundreds of studies and meta-studies — covering far more than the infinitesimal sample of psychotherapy outcome research he cites— that consistently show psychotherapy to be at least as effective as medication for mild to moderate presentations of many different mental disorders?
Psychotherapy takes longer to work, the research shows, but its benefits last longer and there are many fewer side effects and complications. As far as Dr. Ilardi’s claim for the superiority of “evidenced-based” procedures, well the evidence – the research – consistently shows that comparisons between different psychotherapies usually end in tie scores; no technique emerges as better.
Finally, Dr. Ilardi’s claim that psychotherapy works about half the time, if that’s even an accurate figure, means that you’ll have to find the right person and make a little effort to see the process through. Psychotherapy is – and no one ever said otherwise – not like medicine wherein you can at least sometimes be put to sleep or take a pill, and then without more effort on your part emerge cured. By the way, psychiatric medications don’t work all the time either; and as far as making people worse most of us recall what happened with Prozac.