Effectiveness of Therapy

Do people still lie on a couch in therapy? Do they talk deeply about their feelings? Does it even work?

Effectiveness of Therapy Effectiveness of Therapy

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Contents
Table of contents
    • What is psychotherapy?
    • What are different forms of therapy?
    • How do we know if a therapy is effective?
    • What therapy is effective for depression?
    • What therapy is effective for anxiety?

    Effectiveness of Therapy Definition

    So we've heard of the term therapy, but what is psychotherapy? Are there any differences? Does it actually work?

    Psychotherapy is a mental health service that is provided by a professional. They will mainly use forms of communication and interaction to assess, diagnose, and treat behavior patterns or dysfunctional emotions.

    Psychotherapy is pretty much the same as therapy! The only difference is that when you say psychotherapy, it specifically means it's relating to mental health. You could say therapy and someone might think you're going to rehab your pulled muscle, but if you say psychotherapy, someone will know it's not for a bodily muscle. There are varying forms of psychotherapy, many of which are effective for different mental health illnesses.

    Effectiveness of Therapy Image of a person at a desk talking with a person lying down on a couch. StudySmarterFg. 1 Does the patient still lie on a couch in therapy? pixabay.com.

    How do you Measure Effectiveness?

    It is important to remember when discussing the effectiveness of therapies is that it is a difficult concept to measure, as are mental health disorders in the first place. Is there a concrete way to measure this or do you have to trust what the patient says? As a clinician, can you see a change or do you base your entire diagnosis and course of therapy on what the patient tells you? Are patients getting better or is it just cognitive dissonance?

    Skeptics of therapy say that patients will report that therapy improved their well-being because when they started therapy they were in such a crisis that merely since that crisis has stopped they credit their change to therapy. Skeptics also comment on the therapists' reports of the effectiveness of therapy. They say that therapists will remember the positive comments and compliments, but what about the people who left their treatment and never got better in the long run? Those ex-patients would probably not go back and tell their old therapist that it didn't work.

    Keep in mind that the results from studies measuring effectiveness might not present the entire truth.

    Forms of Psychotherapy

    So now that we know what psychotherapy is, let's take a quick look at different forms of psychotherapy before we dive into how effective they are.

    Behavioral Therapy

    Behavioral therapy focuses on changing unwanted behaviors. If someone changes their bad or unwanted behaviors, then they can improve.

    Exposure Therapy

    Exposure therapy falls under the umbrella of behavioral therapy. It is typically used with people with phobias and anxiety disorders. In a safe environment, the person will be gradually exposed to something that they are scared or anxious of.

    Cognitive Therapy

    Cognitive therapy focuses on changing thoughts. If someone changes their thoughts, their behaviors can then improve.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

    CBT focuses on having someone change their thoughts, thought processes, and behaviors in order to help them with their mental health disorder. If they change the way they think about and respond to a situation, they will be better suited for it in the future.

    Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

    DBT is the sibling of CBT! DBT is very similar to CBT but is tailored to specifically treat borderline personality disorder, focusing on emotional regulation and how to handle distress.

    Effectiveness of Therapy for Depression

    When someone is diagnosed with depression (called major depressive disorder if you want to use its clinical name), they have two main routes for treatment if they choose to do so. The first one is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also called SSRIs. SSRIs are an anti-depressant medication whose job is to block certain neurotransmitters (such as serotonin which makes you happy) from entering neurons. The more serotonin hanging out in the brain and not in neurons has a great chance of causing an increase in mood.

    The second possibility for treatment for someone diagnosed with depression is psychotherapy! For people with depression, the most common form of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT. Therapists work with their patients on targeting the negative thoughts and behaviors and work on changing those detrimental patterns.

    Is it Effective?

    Studies have shown that CBT is effective in helping treat symptoms of depression. When researchers are examining this, they are comparing people with depression who are receiving therapy to people with depression who are not receiving therapy. In both categories, people do get better, but more so for those with treatment. Studies have found that there is less relapse and fewer symptoms after someone goes through CBT.

    Depression, unlike specific phobia, does not have one core feature for the therapist to work on to help the patient. For someone with specific phobia, the therapist knows exactly what to target the therapy towards. Since depression has a less specific problem, studies have found that therapy is less effective than if there is one specific problem being addressed.

    Reports have shown that therapy on its own is often not as effective as it is when combined with SSRIs. Typically, for those with depression, it is a combination of both of these methods of treatment that produce the largest change. CBT can do a lot on its own, but for many people with depression, can do even more when paired with medication.

    Remember, each person is different and how they respond to treatment is different! A specific combination of therapy and medication might work for your friend, but what works for you could be a completely different treatment.

    Effectiveness of Therapy for Anxiety

    People who are diagnosed with anxiety can also treat it with medications and/or therapy. SSRIs have been used to treat people with anxiety. Along with SSRIs, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, and beta-blockers are all other possible medications prescribed for someone diagnosed with anxiety.

    In terms of psychotherapy, someone with anxiety would likely have cognitive behavioral therapy, just like someone with depression. In this instance, CBT works to help the patient figure out what triggers them and how they can change their behaviors and reactions to quell their anxieties. While people most likely will use CBT, another possible treatment is mindfulness-based therapies. These therapies will focus on the person and their acceptance and treatment of themselves and others.

    Is it Effective?

    So studies have shown that CBT is effective in helping someone with depression, but is it the same for someone with anxiety?

    Studies have also shown that CBT is effective in treating someone with anxiety. It reduces the symptoms of anxiety and helps improve the patient's quality of life. For anxiety disorders, CBT has been found to be most effective in the 12 months following the treatment. After that, in some cases, it will become less effective. As with depression, some people might also need to take or want to take medication in conjunction with having CBT.

    Remember, CBT has been shown to be effective, but that doesn't mean it's going to be effective in every single person who does CBT. If someone tries CBT for anxiety disorder and it doesn't work, that just means that there is a different form of therapy or treatment out there that would better suit them.

    Image of four people with their hands up in the air. StudySmarterFg. 2 Finding the best treatment for each patient is key! pixabay.com.

    Most Effective Therapy

    Unfortunately, the jury is still out on which therapy is the most effective. Since there are so many forms of therapy, certain therapies tend to be more effective for certain disorders. Exposure therapy is a great way to treat someone with a phobia but would fail at treating someone with depression. What would you slowly expose them to in order to help their lowered mood? Due to this, it's difficult to pinpoint one specific treatment and call it the best.

    One of the most used psychotherapies is cognitive behavioral therapy. It is so frequently used because it combines the best components of cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. CBT has shown to be effective for those who use it as a treatment. However, it is not necessarily the best therapy, just one of the most frequently used therapies. In general, therapy works around 50% of the time.

    Example of Effectiveness of Therapy

    For some, therapy can provide light at the end of the tunnel. However, for others, therapy only provides temporary relief to the symptoms that return a few months later.

    An example that could show how effective and ineffective therapy can be will start at the therapist's office:Joey goes in with symptoms of depression after experiencing multiple losses in his life and wants to get help. He already had depression, but the loss has made it way worse. His therapist helps him for twelve sessions with cognitive behavioral therapy and notes steady improvement. The therapist helps Joey rework how he thinks and acts. When Joey leaves, he feels better and the therapist considers it a success.

    However, as Joey continues on with his life, he notices that the depression symptoms are returning. He wasn't as sad as when he first started therapy, but he certainly isn't feeling as good as he did when he left. What happened?

    When Joey first started therapy he was in such a low place that simply time passing by helped him feel better. Continual CBT helped as well but for some, therapy does not provide a long-term solution. The therapy did work but just didn't work forever.

    Effectiveness of Therapy - Key takeaways

    • Psychotherapy, otherwise known as therapy, is a form of treatment provided by a mental health clinician
    • Be careful when determining the effectiveness of therapy. How is it even measured?
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be effective in people with symptoms of depression and anxiety
    • There is no one perfect therapy. Different forms of therapy work better for different mental health disorders.
    • Medication, or a combination of medication and therapy, is also effective
    Frequently Asked Questions about Effectiveness of Therapy

    What is the effectiveness of therapy?

    The effectiveness of therapy is around 50%. 

    How do you measure the effectiveness of therapy?

    It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of therapy. It mostly relies on information from the patients and therapists. 

    How effective is therapy for mental health?

    Therapy is pretty effective for mental health. People need to find the therapy (and maybe medication as well) that works best for them. 

    Is there an effective treatment for depression?

    The most effective treatment for depression is a combination of therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). 

    What factors influence the effectiveness of therapy?

    Factors that influence the effectiveness of therapy are the relationship between the patient and therapist, the personality of the patient, and their age. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Flooding is an effective treatment for:

    Thoughts like, "If I do not get this job I will never find a job again", are best helped through which form of therapy? 

    This kind of therapy seeks to help clients learn better coping skills. 

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