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September 1979

Specific vs Nonspecific Factors in Psychotherapy: A Controlled Study of Outcome

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1979;36(10):1125-1136. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1979.01780100095009

• This study explored the relative contribution of the therapist's technical skills and the qualities inherent in any good human relationship to outcome in time-limited individual psychotherapy. Highly experienced psychotherapists treated 15 patients drawn from a relatively homogeneous patient population (male college students, selected primarily on the basis of elevations on the depression, anxiety, and social introversion scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). By traditional diagnostic categories, they would be classified as neurotic depression or anxiety reactions. Obsessional trends and borderline personalities were common. A comparable patient group was treated by college professors chosen for their ability to form understanding relationships. Patients treated by professors showed, on the average, as much improvement as patients treated by professional therapists. Treated groups slightly exceeded the controls. Group means, however, obscured considerable individual variability.