Psychotherapy is a field that specializes in psychological intervention, which is meant to improve the lives of patients dealing with psychological problems. While many people generally think of therapy as a one-on-one conversation with a therapist, as humorously portrayed in this clip from the popular television show The Big Bang Theory, there are many types of therapy that people undergo to obtain help. These treatments can range from simple treatments like aversion therapies, which focus on punishments for undesirable behaviors, to the more complex like Electroconvulsive therapy, which uses electricity to change the brain.
With so many different types of psychotherapy researchers have had to find a way to differentiate between effective and ineffective treatments. Over the past fifteen years researchers have developed a list of empirically supported treatments, which means that they have been tested and are backed up by scientific evidence (Lilienfeld et al.; 2010, p. 653). This list is created by the American Psychological Association, but survey results show that only a minority of therapists use this list (Lilienfeld et al.; 2010, p. 654). Also seemingly ineffective therapies can produce effective results, through spontaneous remission, reasons that have nothing to do with the treatment, or the placebo effect, which is the instilling of hope to make people rise to life's challenges. So why even have the list at all? With every psychological problem being different there is much more to learn before we can standardize treatment options for patients.