Does Therapy Work?




Certified Jungian Analyst


(212) 254-3950



(914) 524-9488

Whether therapy works and under what conditions is an important question to ask as you consider beginning a therapeutic process. The neurotic figure in a Woody Allen films depicts the character in therapy that does nothing to change his obsessively neurotic traits. Woody Allen has become an iconic figure, a stereotype of the person in therapy that goes nowhere and resolves nothing. While this may be funny to watch in a comedic film, in the real life of a real person, this would be very unfortunate and tragic


A review of research that answers the question 

“Does Therapy Work ?”

This question was measured in terms of improved social functioning, relief from anxiety, reductions in depression, and in just about every other way that improvement and effectiveness can be defined.

1.) Consumer Reports magazine in cooperation with Martin E.P. Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania. (1995, November)

 “The Effectiveness of Psychotherapy” 

Conclusion of this Research:

  • Patients benefited very substantially from psychotherapy.
  • Long-term treatment was considerably better than short-term treatment.
  • Psychotherapy alone did not differ in effectiveness from medication plus psychotherapy.
  • No specific modality of psychotherapy did better than any other for any disorder.
  • Psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers did not differ in their effectiveness.
  • All did better than marriage counselors and long-term family doctoring.
  • When the length of the therapy was limited or the choice of therapist was limited by insurance or managed care, the therapy was less effective.


Consumer Reports Consumer Reports gave psychological health care a solid endorsement, and noted that treatment by more highly qualified therapists - such as psychologists and professionals with advanced training - was more likely to produce benefits.

2.) U.S. Surgeon General:  "Mental disorders are treatable ... the evidence for treatment being effective is overwhelming ... the inescapable point is that studies demonstrate conclusively that treatment is effective."

3.) Kaiser Permanente:  thirty year study of 10,000 Kaiser patients.

  • Psychotherapy is cost effective. Patients reduce their health care utilization to a degree sufficient to entirely "offset" the cost of therapy.
  • Treated patients tend to be healthier and they use less medical care of all types.
  • Treated patients spend less days in the hospital when they need care.
  • Reduced physicians visits since a substantial number of physician visits are essentially motivated by emotional or stress-related problems.


4). Rand Corporation:  studies on health insurance use.

  • 10% of the population will suffer from a diagnosable psychological difficulty.
  • One fifth of those people will seek psychotherapeutic care;
  • One fifth will not receive any treatment;
  • 60% will visit a physician complaining of problems that are known to be directly related to stress such as anxiety or depression, pain, sleep problems, stomach distress, problems eating, fatigue, headaches, and so on.


5.)     OSHA  (Occupational Safety and Health Care Administration) - has identified stress as one of the top ten workplace safety threats, and one of the most costly if left untreated.

· Stress contributes significantly to accidents at work.

· Stress reduces productivity.

· Problems related to stress lead to over-use of sick time and absenteeism.

· Problems related to stress will increased medical costs.

· Employee Assistance Plans have become standard features in employee benefit packages.

Mental health treatment is one of the very best ways that America can reduce health care costs. This has been known for thirty years in the research literature. Unfortunately, it too often remains unknown to the managed care industry.