The Tyranny of Time: How Long Does Effective Therapy Really Take?

This article by Jonathan Shedler & Enrico Gnaulati has been published in Psychotherapy Networker. It begins:

“It’s been a long time since a systematic study asked clients whether they were actually getting what they needed from their psychotherapy. To be precise, it’s been 25 years since Consumer Reports conducted the study. By far the most cited on the topic in the literature, it gathered data from more than 4,000 respondents who’d sought formal help for stress or emotional problems in the previous three years.

What the study concluded came as a shock to academic researchers who studied and promoted brief therapies—therapy takes time. Meaningful change began at about the six-month mark, and clients who stayed in therapy for a year did substantially better. Those who stayed for two years improved still more. There was an unmistakable dose–response curve: ‘The longer people stayed in therapy, the more they improved.’ This dovetailed with earlier research that also found a dose–response relation between amount of therapy and amount of improvement.

‘The majority were highly satisfied with the care they received,’ Consumer Reports reported. ‘Most had made strides toward resolving the problems that led to treatment, and almost all said life had become more manageable. This was true for all the conditions we asked about, even among people who had felt the worst at the beginning.’ But people had poorer outcomes when the type or duration of therapy was restricted by their health plans. ‘This suggests that limited mental health insurance coverage, and the new trend in health plans—emphasizing short-term therapy—may be misguided.’…”

You can read more from here.

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