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An effectiveness study that asks the question “How do we find out whether psychotherapy works?”
Abstract. Consumer Reports (1995, November) published an article which concluded that patients benefited very substantially from psychotherapy, that long-term treatment did considerably better than short-term treatment, and that psychotherapy alone did not differ in effectiveness from medication plus psychotherapy. Furthermore, no specific modality of psychotherapy did better than any other for any disorder; psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers did not differ in their effectiveness as treaters; and all did better than marriage counselors and long-term family doctoring. Patients whose length of therapy or choice of therapist was limited by insurance or managed care did worse. The methodological virtues and drawbacks of this large-scale survey are examined and contrasted with the more traditional efficacy study, in which patients are randomized into a manualized, fixed duration treatment or into control groups. I conclude that the Consumer Reports survey complements the efficacy method, and that the best features of these two methods can be combined into a more ideal method that will best provide empirical validation of psychotherapy.