Ever since 1996, when the APA’s Division 12, the Society of Clinical Psychology, first assembled its list of what are now called empirically supported treatments (ESTs)—specific treatments that research appeared to show were effective for specific disorders—the idea that the match between a given therapeutic approach and a particular presenting problem was the key to successful therapy has gained currency. Yet, critics of the EST approach have steadily produced empirical evidence demonstrating that a specific treatment is a relatively minor factor in effective psychotherapy. Years of studies and metanalyses showing the greater importance of what psychotherapy researcher John Norcross has coined “evidence-based relationship” (EBR)—the connection between client and therapist that cuts across treatment methods—have alerted therapists to the importance of the healing relationship. However, even therapists who endorse the centrality of the relationship often don’t realize that EBRs have moved well beyond the vague construct of therapy alliance to a more fine-grained way of thinking about and managing the therapeutic relationship.
The EBR, says Norcross, incorporates such specifics as clients’ choices, expectations, and readiness for change. Two recent journal issues, both with introductions by Norcross—the February 2011 Journal of Clinical Psychology and the March 2011 Psychotherapy—present more than 20 studies and articles featuring metanalyses that…
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