6 types of psychotherapy with little or no proven effectiveness

The world of psychotherapies and therapeutic approaches to psychological problems contains a wide variety of propositions. Some of them have proven to be very effective, but others exist more as a tradition or as a way of expressing a philosophy of life than as solutions that will deliver guaranteed results.

This is why it is good to know both the psychological therapies with more proven effectiveness and those whose clinical utility is more questioned. Below we will see the second: psychotherapies with little or no proven effectiveness.

Psychological therapies with little scientific validity

It should be noted that the fact that these therapies are not well scientifically supported that doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyable or motivating experiences for some people.

This fact is what leads some patients to believe that feeling good in the sessions is indicative of the therapeutic progress being made, but it is not. Psychotherapy has a purpose defined by the area of ​​intervention to which it belongs: clinical and health psychology, and therefore its effects should be noticed in the way of disorders and problems of a psychological type in general.

With that said, let’s take a look at some types of psychotherapy that they have less empirical validity than they often appear. These therapies do not appear to be ordered in a certain way.

1. Regression therapy

Regression therapy was born in the 19th century with the theories of French neurologist Pierre Janet, A figure who had a lot of influence on Sigmund Freud. This is why it is part of the forms of therapy linked to psychoanalysis and to current psychodynamics in general.

Like Freudian psychoanalysis, regression therapy places a strong emphasis on the importance that past experiences have on the mental state of the present. However, this is characterized by the idea that those memories which have been stored in memory and which condition who the person is here and now are, in fact, false distortions of what really happened.

The phenomenon of spontaneous modification of memories is something that neuroscience and cognitive science have long verified, and yet, from the theory on which regression therapy is based, it is assumed that this distortion of memories it is due to the conflicts of the unconscious.

There is currently no comprehensive research or meta-analysis to demonstrate the effectiveness of regression therapy.

2. Psychoanalytic therapy

This type of therapy has its origins in the initial ideas of Sigmund Freud, and is based on the analysis of unconscious conflicts that start in childhood according to the ideas of this neurologist. Psychoanalytic therapy focuses on finding an understanding of the instinctual impulses which, according to Freudian theory, are repressed by consciousness and stored in the subconscious affecting the patient.

The psychoanalyst therapist uses techniques such as free association, which attempts to help the patient express their cognitions (thoughts, ideas, images) and emotions without any repression, which would lead the patient to emotional catharsis. Today, this form of psychotherapy is used less and less in Europe, but in some countries, such as Argentina, it is still very popular.

Psychoanalysis is currently being considered it does not benefit from strong evidence of its effectiveness, Among other things for the same reasons that came to the philosopher Karl Popper to criticize this approach: if the sessions do not produce the desired effect, we can always appeal to the deceptions of the client’s unconscious.

However, the social impact of psychoanalysis has been such that it has been claimed outside the field of health as a tool for interpreting stories, artistic forms of expression and social phenomena in general. For example, it had a major impact on radical feminism.

You can learn more about this therapeutic theory in our article: “Sigmund Freud: life and work of the famous psychoanalyst”

3. Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy derives from psychoanalysis, but leaves behind the classical view. It focuses on greater therapeutic brevity and places attention on the most important conflicts of the patient’s current condition. With the intention of departing from the classical psychoanalytic approach, she takes up aspects of the analytical approach to the self or that of object relations from the Kleinian current.

Some psychologists like Alfred Adler and Ackerman have been involved in the development of this form of therapy, and despite the changes, the goal remains to help the patient to “better understand” his conflicts hidden.

There are a number of differences between psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapy. Psychodynamic therapy is characterized by:

  • Have shorter sessions: one or two weekly sessions. In psychoanalytic therapy there are three or four.
  • An active and direct role of the therapist.
  • The therapist gives advice and reinforcement not only in the conflict aspects, but also in the non-conflict aspects.
  • Use a greater variety of techniques: interpretative, supportive, educational …

As with traditional psychoanalytic therapy, this approach it also does not have sufficient empirical evidence indicating its clinical utility.

4. Humanist therapy

Humanist therapy appeared in the mid-twentieth century and is influenced by phenomenology and existentialism. Its main representatives are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, and it takes a holistic approach to human existence and pays special attention to phenomena such as creativity, free will and human potential. It is presented as a tool that encourages self-exploration and visualization of oneself as a person as a whole.

While Abraham Maslow emphasizes a hierarchy of needs and motivations, it was Carl Rogers who created it. the person-centered approach, More focused on psychotherapy. In humanistic therapy, the therapist takes an active role and tries to facilitate the awareness of the patient (called client) of the real experience and of the restructuring of himself, through the establishment of a strong therapeutic alliance. .

Humanist therapy has been used to treat a wide range of mental health issues, Including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, personality disorders and various addictions. However, there is no solid evidence of its effectiveness. However, wishful thinking and the application of “common sense” to therapy lead many people to believe that being guided by positive life principles and that one can intuitively relate to the idea of ​​happiness is tantamount to get really effective therapy.

    5. Form of therapy

    Gestalt therapy develops under the influence of humanistic philosophy, but unlike Carl Rogers therapy, it focuses on thoughts and feelings of the here and now, on self-awareness. The creators of this therapeutic model are Fritz Perls and Laura Perls.

    Gestalt therapy is a type of holistic therapy which understands that the mind is a self-regulating unit. Gestalt therapists use experiential and experiential techniques to try to improve self-awareness, freedom, and self-direction. however, it has nothing to do with Gestalt psychology, Which was born before the Perls proposals and focused on the scientific study of perception and cognition.

    Unfortunately, this approach it is based more on ethical principles and abstract ideas on what the “mind” of a happy person is than in a scientifically formulated model of how mental processes and behavior work. His proposals are based on intuitive ideas of what it means to “live in the present” and be aware of what is happening, so he escapes any attempt to test its effectiveness in a relatively objective manner.

      6. Transactional analysis

      Transactional analysis is a type of humanistic psychotherapy which, despite its origin between the 1950s and 1960s, is still applied today. It was baptized as a model of social psychiatry, in which the unit of social relation is the transaction. It is a form of therapy that presents itself as a very versatile tool, and it can be offered in a multitude of contexts.

      Transactional analysis attempts to work directly on the here and now, while offering initiatives to try to help patients develop day-to-day tools to find creative and constructive solutions to their problems. In theory, the ultimate goal is to ensure that patients regain absolute autonomy over their lives, through the development of spontaneity, awareness and intimacy.

      However, part of the theory on which this therapy is based he uses extremely abstract or directly esoteric conceptsIt is therefore not surprising that its scientific validity and effectiveness has been shown to be very low or practically non-existent.

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