“Everybody loves cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s the no-nonsense, quick and relatively cheap approach to mental suffering…So it was unsettling to learn, from a paper in the journal Psychological Bulletin, that it seems to be getting less effective over time. After analysing 70 studies conducted between 1977 and 2014, researchers Tom Johnsen and Oddgeir Friborg concluded that CBT is roughly half as effective in treating depression as it used to be.
What’s going on? One theory is that, as any therapy grows more popular, the proportion of inexperienced or incompetent therapists grows bigger. But the paper raises a more intriguing idea: the placebo effect. The early publicity around CBT made it seem a miracle cure, so maybe it functioned like one for a while. These days, by contrast, the chances are you know someone who’s tried CBT and didn’t miraculously become perfectly happy for ever. Our expectations have become more realistic, so effectiveness has fallen, too.”
Study: The Effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as an Anti-Depressive Treatment is Falling: A Meta-Analysis (Psychological Bulletin)
- Abstract: A meta-analysis examining temporal changes (time trends) in the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment for unipolar depression was conducted. A comprehensive search of psychotherapy trials yielded 70 eligible studies from 1977 to 2014. Effect sizes (ES) were quantified …Rates of remission were also registered. The publication year of each study was examined…Subgroup analyses revealed that women profited more from therapy than did men (p .05). Experienced psychologists (g 1.55) achieved better results (p .01) than less experienced student therapists (g 0.98). The metaregressions examining the temporal trends indicated that the effects of CBT have declined linearly and steadily since its introduction, as measured by patients’ self-reports (the BDI, p .001), clinicians’ ratings (the HRSD, p .01) and rates of remission (p .01)…Thus, modern CBT clinical trials seemingly provided less relief from depressive symptoms as compared with the seminal trials. Potential causes and possible implications for future studies are discussed.