What does the replication crisis mean for psychotherapy?
March 6, 2020 8:44 AM Subscribe
The evidence for evidence-based therapy is not as clear as we thought (Aeon): "Is the credibility of the evidence for ESTs [empirically supported treatments] as strong as that designation suggests? Or does the evidence-base for ESTs suffer from the same problems as published research in other areas of science?" Of the 70 ESTs listed by the Society of Clinical Psychology, researchers found that 20% performed well, 30% had mixed results, and 50% had subpar outcomes.
Around 20 per cent of ESTs performed well across a majority of our metrics (eg, problem-solving therapy for depression, interpersonal psychotherapy for bulimia nervosa, the aforementioned exposure therapy for specific phobias). This means not only that the therapies have been subjected to clinical trials, but that the evidence produced from these clinical trials seems credible and supports the claim that the EST will help people. We also found a ‘murky middle’: 30 per cent of ESTs had mixed results across metrics, performing neither consistently well nor poorly (eg, cognitive therapy for depression, interpersonal psychotherapy for binge-eating disorder).Evaluating the evidential value of empirically supported psychological treatments (ESTs): A meta-scientific review (Journal of Abnormal Psychology abstract)
That leaves 50 per cent of ESTs with subpar outcomes across most of our metrics (eg, eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing for PTSD, interpersonal psychotherapy for depression). In other words, although these ESTs seemed to work based on the claims of the clinical trials cited by the Society of Clinical Psychology, we found the evidence from these trials lacked statistical credibility. For these ESTs, the relevant research results are sufficiently ambiguous that we cannot be sure that they really do work better than other forms of therapy.
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