Long-Term Therapy: The Current Debate About Its Effectiveness

I’ve skimmed through the loads of written responses to therapist Jonathan Alpert’s recent opinion piece in the New York Times entitled “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already” and have found the vast majority to fall into the “enough-already” camp—enough already with his opinion, that is. Apparently many people feel just fine about theirs and others’ experiences with long-term therapy, no matter what Alpert has to say about liking shorter-term therapy.

In addition, more than one responder points to Bob Newhart‘s (satiric) “stop it!” therapy as being perhaps preferable to Alpert’s own self-promoted brand of brief therapy.

What I think is that although Alpert makes a valid point about the possible ineffectiveness of long-term therapy for some, he fails to give much weight to such possibilities as the ineffectiveness of short-term therapy for others and the effectiveness of long-term therapy for many.

He cites all kinds of research—but leaves out the research that neither promotes his opinion nor the ideas in his new book.

Furthermore, if he’s so research-driven, where’s the research showing that the 28-day-plan-as-outlined-in-his-new-book has been proven to change people’s lives in the way that he suggests it will?

Below, a summary of my above thoughts on this topic and additional ones:

  • One size (of therapy) does not fit all.
  • Both short-term and long-term therapy have their merits.
  • Most clients can determine and/or have the right to determine what works better for them at any given time.
  • Anyone can find research that backs one’s own position.
  • Anyone can ignore research that doesn’t.
  • No valid research is usually available, though, for brand new self-help approaches.
  • The relationship between each particular therapist and client is what often matters the most.
  • There are good therapists, bad therapists, and everything in between.
  • There are dedicated clients, involuntary and/or unmotivated clients, and everything in between.
  • In short, there’s a lot of between.

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