CBT is Recognized as Effective by:
The World Health Organization (WHO)
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
The Psychiatric and Psychological Associations in Canada, the US, Australia and the UK, amongst others
It is a Gold Standard for Depression and Anxiety:
In Frontiers in Psychiatry (2018), David, D., Cristea, I., and Hofmann, S.G., offer the opinion that CBT is the Gold Standard Psychological Treatment for these 3 reasons:
1) “CBT is the most researched form of psychotherapy.”
2) “No other form of psychotherapy has been shown to be systematically superior to CBT.”
3) “The CBT theoretical models/mechanisms of change have been most researched and are in line with the current mainstream paradigms of human mind and behavior.”
Why research is important:
When you seek a medical treatment, you trust that your doctor will recommend a treatment that is effective, in that it has been shown to work as it claims through research. Even in purchasing a product, you want to know that it has been tested. Why would this be different for therapy?
A key advantage of CBT being concrete and goal-oriented is that it can be studied relatively easily. For instance, you can take a group of individuals who suffer from depression, assign half to CBT and half to a waitlist, and compare the symptoms of depression in the 2 groups before and after 12 sessions. You can compare the efficacy of CBT to that of no-treatment; or of CBT versus medication, or CBT versus another form of therapy. This allows researchers to measure the effect of CBT, the size of the effect (small, medium, large) and to say that CBT has an overwhelming body of empirical support!
In fact, CBT is the most researched form of psychotherapy with about 90,000 studies published in PubMed (a database of articles in medicine and other health-related fields), the vast majority documenting its efficacy. No other form of therapy comes close to that.
What research does not mean:
First, because a treatment is shown to be effective, it does not mean that it will be effective for everyone. Remember that effectiveness means that if you give the treatment to one group (treatment group) and not to another (control group), the group that receives the treatment does significantly better on your measure of interest (e.g., better mood), and this result is obtained consistently. It does not mean that every single individual in the treatment group develops better mood, but simply that overall enough people improve, and they improve sufficiently, that the average in the treatment group is higher than that in the control group (note: you would expect that the mean of 2 groups would differ a bit just by chance, but to be effective, the difference has to be large enough that it is highly unlikely to reflect random variation – it is all about statistics. The trustworthiness of the result comes from replication). This is no different than for, let’s say, an anti-depressant that we know is effective: It may work for one patient and not for another.
Secondly, the fact that the effectiveness of CBT has been amply demonstrated does not mean in any way that other psychotherapy approaches don’t work! We wholeheartedly believe in the value of alternative and complementary approaches. All we are saying is that we are proud to be using an approach solidly backed by science and to know that CBT works!
Some articles and their links:
Butler, A.C., Chapman, J.E., Forman, E.M., & Beck, A.T. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(1), 17-31.
Chambless, D.L., & Ollendick, T. H. (2001). Empirically Supported Psychological Interventions: Controversies and Evidence. Annu. Rev. Psychol, 52, 685-716.
Tolin, D.F., Is cognitive-behavioral therapy more effective
than other therapies? meta-analytic review, Clinical Psychology Review (2010),
Butler AC, Chapman JE, Forman EM, et al. The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: a review of meta-analyses. Clin Psychol Rev. 2006;26(1):17-31. [PMID:16199119]
Chambless DL, Ollendick TH. Empirically supported psychological interventions: controversies and evidence. Annu Rev Psychol. 2001;52:685-716. [PMID:11148322]
Gould RL, Coulson MC, Howard RJ. Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression in older people: a meta-analysis and meta-regression of randomized controlled trials. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012;60(10):1817-30. [PMID:23003115]
Hofmann SG, Asnaani A, Vonk IJ, et al. The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses. Cognit Ther Res. 2012;36(5):427-440. [PMID:23459093]
James AC, James G, Cowdrey FA, et al. Cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;6:CD004690. [PMID:23733328]
Cuijpers P, Gentili C, Banos RM, et al. Relative effects of cognitive and behavioral therapies on generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder: A meta-analysis. J Anxiety Disord. 2016;43:79-89. [PMID:27637075]
David D, Cotet C, Matu S, et al. 50 years of rational-emotive and cognitive-behavioral therapy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychol. 2018;74(3):304-318. [PMID:28898411]
Novick DM, Swartz HA. Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Bipolar Disorder. Focus (Am Psychiatr Publ). 2019;17(3):238-248. [PMID:32047369]