Does Psychotherapy Work?

How effective is psychotherapy, really?

Though Sigmund Freud and his followers regularly published case histories describing how patients could be cured of their psychological problems through therapy, exactly how treatment effectiveness could be measured was rarely discussed.   Even as psychotherapy became more popular and new kinds of treatment were developed, few therapists seemed interested in putting actual science into psychotherapy to bring it up to the same standard as regular medicine.

Then along came Hans Eysenck and psychotherapy would never be quite the same again…

A German-born psychologist who spent most of his life in Great Britain,  Eysenck is likely best remembered for his work on intelligence, personality, and genetics.   He is less well-known as a major critic of psychoanalysis though this is where he had the greatest influence.   In 1952,  he published one of the first comprehensive reviews looking at research studies evaluating psychoanalysis and other psychotherapy schools.   Based on the limited number of studies available, Eysenck concluded that only 44% of psychoanalysis patients receiving Freudian treatment showed any kind of real improvement over a five-year period.  Though the numbers were somewhat higher for eclectic therapy (64%), the improvement rate was still well below the 72% rate for patients treated in hospitals or by general practitioners.

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post here.


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