Cognitive Behavior Therapy Ineffective for Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders

JUNE 25, 2009

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is ineffective for the treatment and prevention of relapses of many psychiatric disorders, particularly schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, new research has found.

Professor Keith Laws, University of Hertfordshire’s School of Psychology, served as a lead author of the review of well-controlled trials that used CBT for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. When used for treating depression, CBT had only a “weak effect.”

For the study, the researchers compiled data from earlier trials conducted to determine the impact of CBT on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. According to an abstract of the article that appeared in the journal Psychological Medicine, these trials used controls for “non-specific effects of intervention.” Trials that examined the impact of CBT against relapse were also included, “including those that compared CBT to treatment as usual.” The researchers added that “blinding was examined as a moderating factor.”

According to the authors, though CBT had been said to be effective in treating these three disorders, negative findings had been seen in “well-conducted studies,” and “meta-analyses have not fully considered the potential influence of blindness or the use of control interventions.”

"The results of this review are important because in March NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) re-approved CBT for use in all people with schizophrenia,” said Laws. “The Government is also investing millions of pounds to provide CBT for depression and anxiety in 250 dedicated therapy centres across England. Yet the evidence here is that the effectiveness of this form of therapy may be less than previously thought, to the point of being non-existent in schizophrenia."

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