Defining Psychotherapy


Defining Psychotherapy

The Last 25 Years Have Taught Us That It's Neither Art nor Science

By Jay Efran with Michael Lukens and Mitchell Greene

March/April 2007


With managed care looking over our shoulders and an increasingly sophisticated client base forcing us to make sharper distinctions between what we do and the banalities of pop psychology, it's the rare practitioner who hasn't felt the pressure to achieve better, more reliable therapeutic results. In fact, the last 25 years of the history of psychotherapy, commemorated in this special anniversary issue of the Psychotherapy Networker, might well be dubbed the field's Age of Accountability. Even the remnants of Freud's adherents have felt the pinch. In his new book, Practical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and Patients, renowned analyst Owen Renik argues that the only way to stop his profession's downward spiral is to prove that analysts, too, can produce measurable symptom relief. Recently, the clinical psychology faculty at a nearby university felt obligated to drop the two therapy courses in their program that didn't teach cognitive-behavioral techniques and to focus the curriculum entirely on empirically supported treatments. They told the graduate students that mastering these cutting-edge techniques would put them ahead of the curve, and that they should consider themselves fortunate to be witnessing the end of psychotherapy's "anything goes" era.

Back in 1993, prompted in part by pressure from managed care, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association (APA) created a task force to develop a list of "empirically supported" treatments…

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