Does Therapy Work?

To find out whether therapy works, we can focus on research done in the field.

There are mainly three types of research in psychotherapy (counselling):

  1. Efficacy Research (clinical trials) are used to determine whether a treatment works under special experimental conditions or whether a new treatment works better than an existing treatment or a placebo.  The research focuses on average client responses in highly controlled conditions.
  2. Effectiveness research focuses on the average responses of clients in naturalistic settings.  This approach is used to determine if a treatment works in practice.  Researchers who focus on effectiveness research want to find out if the treatment that has been researched under strict experimental conditions also work in daily life.
  3. The last type of research focuses on the individual. It is known as client-focused research. Counsellors/therapists check in with every client at the beginning of each session and ask for feedback at the end of the session. The feedback shows a therapist and their client whether the sessions are helpful.

In general research has shown that therapy is beneficial to the average client. This however, does not mean that therapy will work for every client.

Factors that contribute to outcome are “client factors” which include your motivation and readiness to make changes, your strengths, and whether you have support outside the therapy room.

Other factors that influence whether therapy is helpful is how your counsellor works with you, and whether you have a good and credible working relationship with your counsellor, it involves the feedback you give to your counsellor and finally, the approach (model and techniques) used by your counsellor.

Please also see what works in trauma therapy.

The above is the result of the reading of many books and articles. For a discussion on this topic go here. As stated in the article “no tool is perfect…”. Checking in with clients and obtaining feedback however, leads to effective therapy.

For those interested in controversial treatments see “opinion”.

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