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Arundale, J. (1996). Editorial. Brit. J. Psychother., 13(1):1-2.

(1996). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 13(1):1-2


Jean Arundale

Psychoanalysis and the psychotherapies based on it have proliferated without the benefit of scientific validation for 100 years, growing into a world-wide movement of tremendous cultural significance. Yet, we constantly face the embarrassment of not having a body of research firmly demonstrating its scientific basis. When Eysenck threw down the gauntlet in 1953, declaring that there was no scientific evidence for the value of the psychotherapies, that they were no more effective than ‘spontaneous remission’ in control groups and calling for the end of psychotherapy training, he did us a favour by stimulating research studies. Over the next 30 years, outcome trials and statistical wars took place. By the 1980s it was agreed by researchers that psychotherapy did not just exist in the eye of the beholder: it was an actual phenomenon. The psychological treatments as a whole were found to have a ‘modestly positive effect’ compared with no treatment, but research was unable to distinguish between types of therapy at outcome: in the words of the Dodo in a widely-read research review, ‘Everybody has won and all must have prizes’ (Luborsky et al. 1975), as all types of therapy were found to be equally effective using the crude research tools available. More sophisticated process research is needed but, in order to look at the processes distinctive to analytic work, it would be necessary to intrude into the sessions by tape or video recordings to gather evidence, which is looked upon with horror by clinicians in Britain because of the confidential and intimate nature of the treatment.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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