As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, I believe in what I do, see daily results, and know that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can change lives. My confidence in this type of therapy was strengthened when I came across a scientific study analyzing the effectiveness of CBT. Experts in the psychology field reviewed the therapeutic results of using CBT when working with patients with differing mental health disorders. The study was published in the Clinical Psychology Review 26 (2006) under the title: The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses by Andrew C. Butler, Jason E. Chapman, Evan M. Forman, and Aaron T. Beck.
The psychologists found CBT to be an effective treatment for:
- generalized anxiety disorder
- panic disorder with or without agoraphobia
- social phobia
- posttraumatic stress disorder
- childhood depressive and anxiety disorders
- marital distress
- childhood somatic disorders
- chronic pain
(Savannah Krantz (Greenhill, 2014) provides a comprehensive summary of the study at the end of this post.)
These results are so encouraging to patients and treatment providers who deal with the pain of mental illness everyday. This wide-ranging, scientifically significant study gives confidence and hope to people entering therapy. If you are reading this post, and looking for help with a mental health challenge, consider finding a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. You can find more information and details about the treatment process by going to the Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy.
If you live in the Dallas area, and would like to talk about treatment with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, please read my web page at Holly Scott, MBA, MS, LPC.
Effectiveness of Treatment with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
by Savannah Krantz (Greenhill, 2014)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT or CT, has been closely examined in many psychological studies relating to treatment results. The cognitive-behavioral treatment of mental disorders is often compared and contrasted with other treatments. CBT differs from behavioral therapy because it suggests that cognitive thoughts produce aberrant behavior, and therefore, CBT focuses on cognation. In an attempt to determine whether CBT has a higher success rate than other treatments, this study required a meta-analysis. This type of research pulls results from previous studies, works to sort out their differences, and essentially combines them. Meta-analysis measures what is called the effect size, which is the measure of strength in statistics. This process aims to estimate the effect size with a large sample of studies rather than a single study, which would only provide data drawn from a single set of circumstances. Similar to using a large sample size in an experiment, using meta-analysis sharpens the precision of the effect size because it eliminates the involvement of erroneous factors.
This CBT study examined many mental disorders: adolescent and adult unipolar depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anger, bulimia nervosa, internalizing childhood disorders, sexual offending, and chronic pain. Not only does the meta-analysis inspect the effects of CBT treatment, but the study also compares the results to other treatment results whenever possible. Out of these disorders, three used data from an uncontrolled effect size: obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and bulimia nervosa. Unlike a controlled effect size, the improvement was measured within its group, rather than being compared to other treatments and/or conditions.
In the results, the U3 score is provided next to the effect size. The U3 score is a percentage that indicates whether or not CBT was more successful than other treatments. If the U3 score is 50%, that means that on average, the CBT patient experienced the same results as the control patient who received other treatment. If the percentage is above 50% and the effect size is positive, the CBT patient’s outcome was superior. If the percentage is above 50% and the effect size is negative, the CBT patient’s outcome was inferior to the control. The higher the percentage, the more (if positive ES) or less (if negative ES) successful CBT was on average.
CBT was proved to be superior to all other treatments for adult and adolescent depression, but was only very slightly more successful than behavioral treatment, with a U3 score of 52%. CBT was more successful than all other treatments for general anxiety disorder, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anger, bulimia nervosa, internalizing childhood disorders, and sexual offending. Two exceptions, chronic pain and panic disorder (with and without agoraphobia), had either one or two elements that were proven to be less successful when treated by CBT.
Overall, the meta-analysis proved that CBT appears to be the superior treatment for these sixteen mental disorders. This can be accredited in part to the fact that CBT differs from other treatments due to its ability to teach the patient therapeutic skills that the patient can then apply, without external assistance, into his or her everyday life.
Clinical Psychology Review 26 (2006), The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses by Andrew C. Butler, Jason E. Chapman, Evan M. Forman, and Aaron T. Beck.