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Predicting the Outcome of Psychotherapy:  Findings of the Penn Psychotherapy Project

Lester Luborsky, PhD; Jim Mintz, PhD; Arthur Auerbach, MD; Paul Christoph; Henry Bachrach, PhD; Thomas Todd, PhD; Marilyn Johnson, PhD; Marjorie Cohen; Charles P. O'Brien, MD, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(4):471-481. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780170113014.
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• Our study of predictability of outcomes of psychotherapy used predictions of two kinds: (1) direct predictions by patients, therapists, and clinical observers; and (2) predictive measures derived from the same sources. Seventy-three nonpsychotic patients were treated in psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy (mean, 44 sessions). Two thirds of the therapists were residents in psychiatry; one third were more experienced. The two main composite outcome measures, measured at termination, were Raw Gain (residualized) and Rated Benefits, which intercorrelated at .76. Most patients improved and showed a considerable range of benefits. The clinical observers' direct predictions of Rated Benefits were highest (.27, P <.05). The success of the predictive measures were generally insignificant, and the best of them were in the .2 to .3 range, meaning that only 5% to 10% of the outcome variance was predicted. The prognostic Index Interview variables did the best (eg, emotional freedom composite, .30; a crossvalidation for 30 patients was.39 (P <.05). Neither the therapist measures nor the early psychotherapy session measures predicted significantly. Reanalysis of the similar Chicago Counseling Center study, in our terms, showed a similar low level of prediction success, eg, adequacy of functioning, marital status match, and length of treatment predicted significantly in both studies.

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