Effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural, person-centred and psychodynamic therapies as practised in UK National Health Service settings

William B Stiles, Michael Barkham, Elspeth Twigg, John Mellor-Clark, Mick Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Psychotherapy's equivalence paradox is that treatments have equivalently positive outcomes despite non-equivalent theories and techniques. We compared the outcomes of contrasting approaches practised in routine care.

METHOD: Patients (n = 1309) who received cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), person-centred therapy (PCT) and psychodynamic therapy (PDT) at one of 58 National Health Service (NHS) primary and secondary care sites in the UK during a 3-year period completed the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation-Outcome Measure (CORE-OM) at the beginning and end of their treatment. Therapists indicated which treatment approaches were used on an End of Therapy form. We compared outcomes of six groups: three treated with CBT, PCT or PDT only, and three treated with one of these plus one additional approach (e.g. integrative, supportive, art), designated CBT+1, PCT+1 or PDT+1 respectively.

RESULTS: All six groups averaged marked improvement (pre-post effect size = 1.36). Treatment approach and degree of purity ('only' vs. '+1') each accounted for statistically significant but comparatively tiny proportions of the variance in CORE-OM scores (respectively 1% and 0.5% as much as pre-post change). Distributions of change scores were largely overlapping.

CONCLUSIONS: Results for these three treatment approaches as practised routinely across a range of NHS settings were generally consistent with previous findings that theoretically different approaches tend to have equivalent outcomes. Caution is warranted because of limited treatment specification, non-random assignment, lack of a control group, missing data and other issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-66
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • Adult
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Female
  • Great Britain
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders
  • Mental Health Services
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Psychotherapy
  • Socioenvironmental Therapy
  • State Medicine
  • Treatment Outcome

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