In chapter two of Integrative Psychotherapy, McMinn and Campbell attempt to set our their foundation for psychotherapy. You’ll remember that in the last chapter they articulated their theological foundation. This chapter nicely divides into two parts: (a) A defense of the science of psychotherapy, and (b) a summary of what is “known” about the what works, when, and why.
They begin the chapter by admitting that there are many competing and dispirit theories/models of psychotherapy–many which have never been tested through empirical means despite lofty claims. They also acknowledge that many Conservative Christians have cherry picked certain studies that show that psychotherapy is ineffective and ignored many others that say the opposite. In other words, anyone can find a stat to prove whatever they want.
McMinn and Campbell remind their readers that they intend to build a Christian Psychotherapy model built on a robust Christian worldview and fleshed out with scientific methods to tell us, “what works, whey, and why” (p. 56). They lament that since both scientists and theologians aren’t known for their humility, a robust Christian psychotherapy model has not really been built. Collective wisdom is needed to accomplish the goal.
Then the authors turn to some of the details about the science of psychotherapy? Is it really effective? They summarize some of the effectiveness and efficacy studies (these are different: effectiveness: client survey; efficacy: lab studies of very specific interventions on one particular problem). Back in the 1950s Hans Eysenck published a number of studies reporting, “there was no research evidence to support the effectiveness of psychotherapy compared to no-treatment control groups” (p. 57). By 1980, however, there was ample evidence to the contrary. In fact, McMinn and Campbell report, “that the average effect size for psychotherapy is .82 indicating that the average treated is less symptomatic than 80% of untreated persons” (p. 58). They then compare that number with the effect size of certain medications on psychiatric problems (stimulants for ADHD: .91, SSRIs for Depression: .50, Atypical Antipsychotics for Schizophrenia: .25).
Does any one model work better than another? The authors report the oft-heard conclusion: no one model seems more effective than another. And yet, at the end of this chapter they state their preference for Cognitive theory models (due to the research published about cognitive techniques) joined to aspects of client-centered models and other aspects of psychotherapy research. In olden days, we called this eclectic. They do not call it that, most likely due to the negative connotations associated with the word (it has often been used to cover up the lack of theoretical awareness of the clinician using the term).
Before they end the chapter, they consider whether length of treatment matters. They do not really do much with this question other than to point out that most therapeutic courses are much shorter these days. They also consider the question whether therapy benefits last. Again, they don’t cite the literature but state the that certain factors will make it more or less likely for the benefits to last.
They speak briefly about two more important matters in the consideration of the effectiveness of psychotherapy: (a) recognizing that common threads of the change process (insight, affective experience, stages of change, behavioral change, etc.) and point to the works of Prochaska and DiClemente, and (b) common factors in all models of therapy that seem to account for success. They cite date regarding these factors (and the percentages the factor accounts for for therapy outcome) as
Client and extratherapeutic factors (40%). Such as intelligence, motivation for change, persistence, social support, resiliency, etc.
Relationship between client and therapist (30%). This is why program emphasize relational skills over techniques or models
Hope/expectancy (15%). How much hope does the client have in the possibility of change?
Model/Technique (15%). Notice that the learning of special therapeutic techniques only account for a small portion of the outcomes in psychotherapy.
My thoughts on this chapter. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The chapter follows conventional wisdom about the science of therapy. The reader who wants to go deeper can look look at their bibliography and dig pretty deep. The reality is that though we think we know a number of things, the research on psychotherapy is complex and sometimes controversial. This is not to say that we know nothing. But we do have a long way to go. I might have liked to see some more discussion on what we as yet do not know but really want to. Further, I would have also liked a short discussion of philosophy of science. Why? Just as we need to be tentative about some of our theological underpinnings, so we ought to be a bit tentative about the modernist underpinnings of psychological research. I don’t think they are overstating their case yet, but the reader may view these two disciplines (theology and psychology) as one having only theory and the other only fact.
I do hope that they will take a look at the presuppositions of cognitive theory in the next chapter. How does that model influence what they see?