September 16, 2011

APA Response to Time Magazine Online Q&A With Alan Kazdin

APA President Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD, authors a letter to the editor in response to Time magazine's article "Q&A: Yale Psychologist Calls for the End of Individual Psychotherapy"

Dear Editor:

Psychotherapy is a highly effective treatment for many disorders, including anxiety and depression. That’s an important and data-based message for health care consumers, which unfortunately was ignored by Maia Szalavitz in her interview with Dr. Alan Kazdin: "Q&A: Yale Psychologist Calls for the End of Individual Psychotherapy" (September 13). 

Dismissing the value of individual psychotherapy is not supported by the research data and does not help address the access and barriers-to-care issues that many mental health consumers currently experience. Dr. Kazdin’s message that the field needs to continue to evolve additional interventions to help expand empirically supported treatment options and improve patient access to such care is critical. Dr. Kazdin himself has developed two such proven-effective treatments for aggressive and antisocial behavior in children. 

Additionally, we need to study, and where appropriate embrace, new and innovative ways of ensuring access to evidence-based care for patients who don’t currently have that access. We agree with Dr. Kazdin and Stacey Blase, who in their 2011 article, "Rebooting Psychotherapy Research and Practice to Reduce the Burden of Mental Illness" (Perspectives on Psychological Science), state that while psychological interventions have “advanced remarkably” over the last few decades the mental health professions need to do more to put these empirically proven treatments to work in order to reduce the burden of mental illness. 

Importantly, for some disorders, psychotherapy treatment can be more effective, safer and less expensive in the long-term than drug treatment. Unfortunately, your article may discourage people who could be helped by psychotherapy from seeking such treatment. 

Melba J. T. Vasquez, PhD
American Psychological Association