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March 1958

Reduction of Symptoms by Pharmacologically Inert Substances and by Short-Term Psychotherapy

Author Affiliations


From the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1958;79(3):345-351. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1958.02340030109018

The advent of the newer drugs, especially tranquilizers, has brought forth a large number of studies involving the use of so-called placebos as a means for determining the effectiveness of presumably potent chemical agents in emotional illness. Those of us conversant with these experiments have been impressed repeatedly by the magnitude of change effected by "placebo" alone. As a consequence, we have wondered about the extent of such change in psychiatric patients, especially as compared with that associated with the experience of psychotherapy, and have been particularly concerned about the meaning of placebo in a psychiatric setting.

During the course of follow-up studies on patients who participated in an extensive outpatient, short-term psychotherapy research project, conducted in the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, the opportunity presented itself for the investigation of the response to brief trials on placebo in certain members of this population. In addition, this clinic has carried on