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Psychotherapies should be assessed for both benefit and harm

  • Jan Scott (a1) and Allan H. Young (a2)

Summary

The past four decades have witnessed a transformation in research on the benefits of psychological therapies. However, even though therapists highlight that negative and adverse effects are seen in day-to-day practice, research on the negative effects of psychotherapy is insufficient. Given the unrelenting popularity of therapies, the argument for examining the adverse effects of psychotherapy would seem to be compelling. Such a strategy would extend beyond supervision of individual therapists to the introduction of monitoring systems that allow for a more systematic examination of failed psychotherapy interventions (such as exist for medication prescribing). The starting point could be the development of a consensus on how to define, classify and assess psychotherapy side-effects, unwanted events, adverse reactions, etc. This would provide a conceptual framework for communication, monitoring and research. This approach should not be viewed as an attack on therapies: every branch of medicine learns from mistakes, the same must surely be true for psychological treatments.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Professor Jan Scott, Academic Psychiatry, Wolfson Unit, Campus for Vitality & Ageing, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 6BE, UK. Email: jan.scott@newcastle.ac.uk

Footnotes

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See pp. 210–212 and 260–265, this issue.

Declaration of interest

J.S. has undertaken research on the use of psychological interventions, especially cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) either alone or in combination with medications, for common and for severe mental disorders. She is a Distinguished Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and has contributed to several committees examining psychotherapy practice, such as the recent proposals on supervision competencies for psychotherapists (see www.ucl.ac.uk/CORE). A.H.Y has received payment for lectures and advisory boards for all major pharmaceutical companies with drugs used in affective and related disorders.

Footnotes

References

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Psychotherapies should be assessed for both benefit and harm

  • Jan Scott (a1) and Allan H. Young (a2)
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