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December 1963

"Improvement" in Untreated Psychiatric Patients

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1963;9(6):575-585. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1963.01720180047007

While there has been considerable controversy regarding the relative frequency of "spontaneous remissions" and remissions following psychotherapy among psychiatric patients,14,16,33,39 there have been very few studies of the factors involved in the "improvement" of untreated patients.

Intensive studies of psychiatric patients whose symptoms have "improved" without formal treatment have considerable theoretical and practical significance. For example, comparisons of untreated patients and patients treated by various forms of psychotherapy should increase our understanding of the specific contributions to "improvement" made by psychotherapy. In addition, with studies evaluating different forms of psychiatric treatment it is usually impossible to match control groups with experimental groups on more than a few personality variables. It is therefore important to know which variables are most contributory to "improvement" in untreated patients so that the controls and treated patients can be matched on the most important variables.

Although several studies present test-retest results in untreated psychiatric patients,5,12,35,44

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