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How Therapy Works: Findings from Process Research

Hobrechtstraße 66 Berlin, 12047


Findings from psychotherapy research from the last decades have shown that psychotherapy works. How do we know that? How do patient and therapist contribute to a successful psychotherapy outcome? How can we capture their interaction and process in the course of treatment? In this lecture, we want to look behind the curtain of the consulting rooms of psychotherapists. 

The general public, people who are considering starting a treatment, clinicians, and researchers are eager to understand the significant components of the change in the client. Therapy can be analyzed in many different ways. Two of them are outcome research and process research. Outcome research focusses on evaluation and comparison of different psychotherapeutic approaches in order to demonstrate which one is more successful in treating clients with depression, anxiety or other mental health problems. Process research aims to describe the interaction between therapist and patient in order to capture what is really happening within a particular session by analyzing audiotaped recordings while preserving the patients’ anonymity. 

In order to understand how therapy works, we need to find out what actually goes on in sessions, instead of comparing ‘brand names’ which are associated with specific techniques and strategies. Process research provides an insight into real sessions and deepens the understanding of how psychotherapy is conducted. By knowing the results, we can distinguish relevant or ‘active ingredients’ and investigate their impact on the therapeutic change.

In this presentation, applied research methods will be introduced together with concrete examples from case studies, in order to understand the interaction and the nature of the relationship in psychotherapy. Discussion of the findings will help us deepen the knowledge about counselling, psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis.

About the lecturer:
Dr. Phil. Ingrid Erhardt, is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, and music therapist working in private practice in Munich and as a research associate at the University of Kassel. 

Cover photo: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Maskentanz

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