Psychotherapy is effective and here’s why
Madison, but relationships and
customized treatments play
Psychotherapy works, and the
science and research are there
to back it up, said Bruce E.
Wampold, PhD, at the APA
2011 Annual Convention
Effectiveness: What Makes it
© JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Corbis
Answering just what
makes it work is complex,
said Wampold, a professor
of counseling psychology at
the University of Wisconsin–
• Has a treatment plan and
allows it to be flexible.
What makes a psychotherapist successful? Among the key traits is a sophisticated set of
interpersonal skills, said Dr. Bruce E. Wampold at APA’s 2011 Annual Convention.
• Is influential, persuasive
• Monitors patient progress.
• Offers hope and optimism (realistic optimism, not
• Is aware of a client’s characteristics in context.
• Is reflective.
• Relies on best research evidence.
• Continually improves through professional development.
With an effective therapist, science shows that
psychotherapy even works better in the long-term and is more
enduring than medication. In fact, not only is it more cost-
not medications, should be applied first.
So what’s stopping psychotherapy for being the go-to
treatment for nonpsychotic conditions? For one thing, major
pharmaceutical companies heavily market their medications
directly to the public and health professionals, said speaker
Steven Hollon, PhD. While therapy is getting sharper, more
effective, and more enduring, it is continuing to lose market
share to medication.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, said APA officials. There
is an increased effort by psychologists and APA to change
attitudes and make psychotherapy a first-line treatment. With
effective, but psychotherapy leads to fewer relapses of anxiety
and mild to moderate depression than medication use alone
— so much so that Norwegian Health Authorities have issued
new guidelines concerning treatment of mild to moderate
depression and anxiety, stating that psychological interventions,
evidence-based treatment guidelines under development, and
the move for an official statement by APA on psychotherapy’s
effectiveness, one day medication may lose its market share to
—A. BROWNAWELL AND K. KELLEY