WBUR Public Radio:
The talking cure has come a long way since Sigmund Freud had women lying on his couch and free-associating several times a week. Today, there are a wide variety of scientifically-supported interventions for a wide variety of problems. But a heated discussion among major players in the psychotherapy world suggests that the standard treatments of today aren’t likely to be the standard treatments of tomorrow.
I’m a clinical psychologist myself, with one foot in the world of clinical practice and one foot in the world of academic research. So I’ve been paying close attention to this discussion which was kicked off by an article published last year in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. The authors, former president of the American Psychological Association, Alan Kazdin, and his graduate student, Stacey Blase, argued that the current model of psychotherapy – one-on-one face-to-face meetings between a trained professional provider and an individual client – is simply unsustainable in the face of rising rates of mental illness among increasingly diverse populations and rising costs of care. Ever since the article was published professional listservs have buzzed with discussion and the journal decided to publish a series of commentaries.
When Time Magazine picked up the controversy, Kazdin told them “all these people – including me – do very expensive controlled trials of therapy and yet we see that most people aren’t getting treatment at all. Something is wildly, drastically wrong.” But the opinions on the other side have been just as strong. In an open letter posted to one professional listserv and then re-posted in a comment thread on Time’s website, another psychologist wrote, “there is no on-line treatment that can compete with what a compassionate, highly-skilled individual therapist can provide.”
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