What is the Effectiveness of Psychotherapy?

Convincing evidence exists to show that most people who have at least several sessions of therapy are much better off than those who have who choose not to get help with their emotional problems. Therapy can improve a person’s overall health. For example, immune system functioning can be one benefit of improved emotional health in therapy. Psychotherapy has become a common form of treatment for many people. For example, 80 percent of Americans reported that they have become more aware of how their mental health and emotions affect their physical health, and 78 percent said they would see a psychologist for help in managing stress (APA, 2005). Professionals in the field of psychology have long recognized that psychological factors affect physical health, productivity, feelings of well-being, relationship quality, ability to cope with stress, and ability to function in all areas of one’s life. Personal growth is another common reason for participating in therapy, since an increase in self-esteem and self-understanding, as well as the changing of negative patterns in one’s life, can all occur in therapy.

An often cited survey from Consumer Reports (1995) concluded that psychotherapy patients benefited significantly from psychotherapy, that long-term treatment was more effective than short-term treatment, and that psychotherapy alone was just as effective as psychotherapy plus medication. Again in 2004, Consumer Reports found that consumers reported talk therapy to be more effective than drug therapy for depression and anxiety. Another study found that 75 percent of people who participate in therapy show some benefit and that the benefits achieved through therapy tend to be maintained. I n 2007, Michael J. Lambert reported that 50% of people improved after 11-21 sessions of therapy, and 75% of people improved after 25-45 sessions.

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