The Effectivenss of Psychotherapy: The Consumer Reports Study
Martin E. P. Seligman
University of Pennsylvania
American Psychologist, 50(12), 965-974.
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.