How Psychotherapy Has Evolved

Ira Halper, MD, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.By Ira S. Halper, MD

I was saddened to read a recent article in the New York Times featuring a psychiatrist who used to like doing psychotherapy. He now restricts his practice to writing prescriptions. He no longer talks to his patients about their emotional problems; he refers them to nonmedical therapists.

Many people are familiar with the dramatic developments in the field of psychopharmacology beginning in the 1950s. Less well known are the equally exciting developments in the field of psychotherapy during these years, particularly cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies.

Cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies are active and structured forms of psychotherapy based on the idea that the way an individual views the world has a major influence on emotions and behavior.  A variety of cognitive and behavioral strategies are employed to reduce unpleasant feelings and change maladaptive behavior.

These treatments are more efficient and often more effective than traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses. Cognitive therapy and other cognitive-behavioral therapies can be used alone or with medication, and treatment often takes months rather than years. These treatments are based on scientific research. Continue reading