How Effective is CBT Compared to Other Treatments?

Over the last few decades, as the field of psychology has moved toward evidence-based practice, there has been some controversy about the increasing adoption of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) over other methods of treatment. Since there has been increasing importance placed on treatments with research support, there has been a flood of new research available to guide clinicians and patients to the most effective treatments for psychological problems. In study after study CBT stands out as the most effective treatment for numerous mental health issues. Furthermore, CBT treatments are usually of shorter duration, and the results are more enduring than those of other treatment methods. As a result, therapists trained in more traditional therapies, such as Freudian/psychodynamic therapists, have railed against this method of therapy because, they claim, it oversimplifies problems and aims toward a “quick fix” due to the shorter duration of treatment in CBT.

Below is a graph comparing the effectiveness of CBT with that of medication and other forms of talk therapy. Unfortunately the research is not entirely definitive, as psychotherapy research is still in its relative infancy, not having the benefit of the bottomless pockets of big pharma. However, the initial research is striking in its implication of CBT being the treatment of choice for many psychological problems.


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