Psychotherapy is an important form of treatment for a host of psychological problems, including low self-esteem, social problems, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. But is psychotherapy effective? For years, clinical psychologists have debated the assumed benefits of psychotherapy. Many studies have compared psychotherapy to various drug treatments or to no treatment at all. By statistically combining hundreds of these studies, researchers have confirmed that overall, psychotherapy is better than no treatment at all. These studies have shown that most patients who improve with psychotherapy do so within six months of beginning treatment.
Surprisingly, these studies also indicate that all major types of psychotherapy—despite differences in theoretical orientations or in techniques used—are about equally effective. Psychologists theorize that despite surface differences, all psychotherapies have in common three factors that help to promote change: a supportive and trusting relationship, an opportunity to open up and talk freely, and positive expectations for improvement.