August 9, 2012
Research Shows Psychotherapy Is Effective But Underutilized
Consumers need better understanding of and access to psychological and behavioral health care, says American Psychological Association
WASHINGTON—Psychotherapy is effective, helps reduce the overall need for health services and produces long-term health improvements, according to a review of research studies conducted by the American Psychological Association.
Yet, the use of psychotherapy to treat people with mental and behavioral health issues decreased over the last decade while the use of medications to address such problems has increased, according to government and insurance industry data.
“Every day, consumers are bombarded with ads that tout drugs as the answer to their problems. Our goal is to help consumers weigh those messages with research-based information about how psychotherapy can provide them with safe, effective and long-lasting improvements in their mental and physical health,” said Melba J. T. Vasquez, PhD, past president of the American Psychological Association who led the psychotherapy effectiveness review project.
As a result of the effectiveness review project, the Association’s Council of Representatives last week adopted a resolution on psychotherapy effectiveness. The resolution cites more than 50 peer-reviewed studies on psychotherapy and its effectiveness in treating a spectrum of health issues and with a variety of populations, including children, members of minority groups and the elderly.
Key findings of the resolution:
Research demonstrates that psychotherapy is effective for a variety of mental and behavioral health issues and across a spectrum of population groups. The average effects of psychotherapy are larger than the effects produced by many medical treatments.
Large multi-site and meta-analytic studies have demonstrated that psychotherapy reduces disability, morbidity and mortality; improves work functioning; and decreases psychiatric hospitalization.
Psychotherapy teaches patients life skills that last beyond the course of treatment. The results of psychotherapy tend to last longer than psychopharmacological treatments and rarely produce harmful side effects.
While medication is appropriate in some instances, research shows that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often most effective in treating depression and anxiety. It should also be noted that the effects produced by psychotherapy, including those for different age groups and across a spectrum of mental and physical health disorders, are often comparable to or better than the effects produced by drug treatments for the same disorders without the potential for harmful side effects that drugs often carry.
“As Americans grapple with the ever-increasing cost of health care, it is important that consumers and those who make decisions about health care access understand the potential value in both improved outcomes and cost-saving of psychotherapies,” Vasquez said. “APA applauds and continues to support collaboration of psychologists with other health care providers as part of integrated health care teams. Psychotherapies are highly effective, but only when consumers have access to them.”
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 137,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.