Does Therapy Work?

Guest post.
Here’s an article written by Paul G. Mattiuzzi, Ph.D. on the question of whether therapy works. Dr. Mattiuzzi was kind enough to allow me to quote the article in full. His website, the psychological resource information system, can be found here.

Does Therapy Work?

Countless studies have shown that psychotherapeutic treatment works.
The effects have been measured in terms of improved social
functioning, relief from anxiety, reductions in depression, and in
just about every other way that improvement and effectiveness can be

According to the U.S. Surgeon General: “Mental disorders are treatable
… the evidence for treatment being effective is overwhelming … the
inescapable point is that studies demonstrate conclusively that
treatment is effective.”

The classic effectiveness study.
Consumer Reports magazine concluded similarly. In their extensive
study, which relied largely on self-reports from patients, 9 out of 10
Americans reported positive benefits. Consumer Reports gave
psychological health care a solid endorsement, and noted that
treatment by more highly qualified therapists – such as psychologists
– was more likely to produce benefits.

Insurance and the bottom line.
But perhaps the best way to measure the outcome is to look at the
cost. Dating back some thirty years to a study of 10,000 Kaiser
patients, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that psychotherapy is
cost effective. Patients who receive treatment reduce their health
care utilization to a degree sufficient to entirely “offset” the cost
of therapy. Treated patients tend to be healthier and they use less
medical care of all types. They spend less days in the hospital when
they need care and they visit their physicians less frequently. The
reason is that a substantial number of physician visits are
essentially motivated by emotional or stress-related problems.

In a series of studies on health insurance, the Rand Corporation found
that in any given year, about 10% of the population will suffer from a
diagnosable psychological difficulty. One fifth of those people will
seek psychotherapeutic care. One fifth will not receive any treatment.
And the remaining 60% will visit a physician. But rather than
complaining about stress, anxiety or depression, they will complain
about pain, sleep problems, stomach distress, problems eating,
fatigue, headaches, and so on. They will complain about problems that
are known to be directly related to stress.

EAP and OSHA – the safety factor.
Business and industry is well-aware of this phenomenon, and that is
why Employee Assistance Plans have become standard features in
employee benefit packages. Employers know that stress contributes
significantly to accidents at work, reduced productivity, over-use of
sick time, absenteeism, and increased medical costs. Employers know
that therapeutic services are good for the bottom line. OSHA – the
occupational safety and health care administration – has identified
stress as one of the top ten workplace safety threats, and one of the
most costly if left untreated.

Psychologists have demonstrated that providing access to mental health
treatment is one of the very best ways that America can reduce health
care costs. This has been known for thirty years in the research
literature. Unfortunately, it too often remains unknown to the managed
care industry.

Yes. Therapy works.

Paul G. Mattiuzzi, Ph.D.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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