Psychology is a relatively young science (The first scientific laboratory of psychology will not be created until 1879) and it is constantly evolving, having emerged different schools of thought dedicated to different areas and conceptualizations of the human psyche. One of the most well-known and popular fields is clinical psychology and psychotherapy, which go a long way in improving patients with different diseases, difficulties and disorders.
However, treating a patient is not the first thing that comes to mind: it requires the use of different techniques which have been shown to have real and significant effectiveness. Evaluating the effectiveness of a technique requires evaluating not only the possible improvement of a patient but also comparing it with no therapy and with other treatments and currents. Research in this regard has generated great repercussions and ways to understand psychotherapy and its effects. Even today, there is debate as to whether or not the different types of therapy show significant differences in effectiveness, discussing something with a curious name: the Dodo effect, related to an issue known as the Dodo verdict. We will talk about these two concepts here.
What is the Dodo effect?
This is called the Dodo effect, a hypothetical phenomenon that reflects that the effectiveness of all psychotherapy techniques maintains an almost equivalent effectiveness, No significant differences between the multiple theoretical and methodological trends available. The Dodo verdict is the subject of a debate that revolves around the existence or not of this effect. Do therapies work because of their effectiveness in activating the necessary psychological mechanisms according to the theoretical model on which they are based, or do they simply work because of other things that all therapists apply without realizing it?
Its name is a metaphor introduced by Rosenzweig in reference to Lewis Carrol’s book, Alice in Wonderland. One of the characters in this story is the Dodo bird, who considered at the end of the endless race that “everyone has won and everyone should have prizes”. The effect in question was suggested by this author in a publication of 1936, considering after some research that it is the factors shared between the different perspectives and the functioning of the therapy which really generate a change and allow the recovery of the “ patient. ”.
If this effect really existed, the implications could be very relevant for the application of practical clinical psychology: The development of different therapies between different currents of thought would become unnecessary and it would be desirable to research and generate strategies that will focus on the explanation and valuation of the elements that they have in common (which in reality is generally done in practice, being the technical eclecticism quite common in the profession).
However, different research has questioned and denied its existence, noting that certain approaches work best in certain types of disorders and populations.
Two opposing poles: the Dodo verdict
Initial research that seemed to reflect the existence of the Dodo effect at the time they found fierce opposition from several professionals, Who conducted their own research and found that there were really significant differences. However, in turn, this research was later refuted by other authors, still finding us today with different research that suggests different conclusions.
Thus, we can see that there are mainly two sides to examining the existence of statistically significant differences in terms of the effectiveness of different therapies.
The importance of the therapeutic relationship
On the one hand, those who defend the existence of the Dodo effect they claim that almost all therapies have similar effectiveness to each otherAnd it is not so much the specific techniques of each theoretical stream but the common elements that underlie them all that generate a real effect on the patients. They argue for the need to study and strengthen these common elements.
Some authors like Lambert argue that healing is due to nonspecific effects: partly to factors in the therapeutic relationship, to personal factors of the subject outside of the therapy itself, to the expectation of healing and to working. for improvement, and so on. in a much more modest way, to elements resulting from the theoretical or technical model itself.
The truth is that in this sense different research has emerged which supports the great importance of these aspects, being among the main the therapeutic relationship between the professional and the patient (Something that has received great importance from all disciplines) and the attitude of the therapist towards the patient and his problems (empathy, active listening and unconditional acceptance between them). But that doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility (as Lambert suggests) that there are differences between treatments when it comes to being effective.
The importance of the therapeutic model
Those who argue that there are significant differences between therapies, on the other hand, observe real differences in the effectiveness of the treatment and appreciate that the basic functioning of the different intervention strategies used this is what generates behavioral and cognitive changes in the patient, some strategies being more effective than others in certain disorders or alterations.
The various investigations carried out by comparing the treatments have shown different levels of effectiveness depending on the problem to be treated and the circumstances surrounding it.
It has also been observed that some therapies can even be counterproductive depending on the disorder in which they are applied, which had to be controlled so that the patients could improve and not quite the opposite. Such a thing would not happen if all therapies worked the same. However, it is also true that this does not prevent most of the change from being due to common factors between the different therapies.
And an intermediate consideration?
The truth is that the debate is still going on today, and there is no clear consensus on this point and indicating to the inquiry whether the effect or the verdict of the Dodo is really there or not. In both cases, different methodological aspects have been criticized which may cast doubt on the results obtained or have implications different from those initially envisaged.
It can probably be considered that neither party is absolutely right and that there are procedures more appropriate than others in certain situations and certain topics (after all, each topic and problem has its own modes of operation and its modification. requires more targeted action in certain areas) but resulting in elements shared between different therapies, the main mechanism that enables the generation of change.
In any case, it should not be forgotten that the clinical practice of psychotherapy it is or should always be done for the benefit of the patient, Who is the one who goes in consultation to seek professional help from a prepared person. And this involves both knowing specific techniques that can be used which have been shown to be effective and developing and optimizing basic therapeutic skills in such a way as to maintain a context which is in itself beneficial.
- Lambert, MJ (1992). Implications of research results for the integration of psychotherapy. In Norcross JC and Goldfried MC (Eds.). Integration manual of psychotherapy (pp. 94-129). New York: Basic Books.
- Fernández, JR and Pérez, M. (2001). Separating the grain from the chaff in psychological treatments. Psicothema Vol. 13 (3), 337-344.
- González-Blanch, C. and Carral-Fernández, L. (2017). Cage Dodo, please! The story that all psychotherapies are equally effective. Psychologist Papers, 38 (2): 94-106.