Psychotherapy Dose – Response Effect

Within the world of psychotherapy, it is assumed that repeated exposure to therapy will maximize positive outcomes, but many struggle to regularly seek treatment. Addiction researchers have sought to support the argument for regular intervention by studying what is known as the “dose-response” effect. This language applies to other disciplines, but the easiest way to think of it is that a “dose” stands for one therapy session, while a “response” is a positive outcome, like positive change in clinical behavior. Given this, the current research seeks to understand how increased “doses” can necessitate increases in a positive outcome. At Novus Mindful Life, we believe in the power of the dose-response effect and its ability to change people’s lives once and for all.

At the core of the study of the dose-response effect is the question: “how much therapy is enough?” Originally developed in pharmacology, the dose-response effect was designed to determine exactly how many doses would net the desired response. This was then borrowed by the psychotherapy industry with the intent to adapt the model to individual therapy sessions. Initial research from the 1950s established a pretty serious positive link between higher “doses” of therapy sessions and greater positive outcomes. Since the 1980s, studies in the dose-response effect have shown that different psychological symptoms actually improve at different rates. A positive response rate of 50% is considered successful. A survey of several different studies in the dose-response effect found that the target for bringing most pathological symptoms into recovery is between 10 and 20 therapy sessions. This range shows the most benefit to the most kinds of symptoms.

But the most interesting takeaway from these studies is that most people don’t even approach the number of therapy sessions that they need. 18 sessions could produce a relatively moderate 50% improvement, but very few patients are seen that many times. This indicates flaws with treatment access and education. To make matters worse, most of the respondents in the studies were either gainfully-employed persons with access to an Employee Assistance Program or college students accessing a counseling center on campus. The problem with addiction, however, is that many people suffering from addiction don’t necessarily have access to treatment, let alone a steady-paying job. As a result, they are either swept under the rug or stop coming to treatment before even modest improvement can take place.

Truthfully, however, more research needs to be done, and more causes need to be established. It’s not necessarily known why patients continue to seek treatment, or why they stop. Sometimes access changes; other times desires change. There are also the cases of remission where patients slip back into old habits—habits presumed to be dead. And in more cases than not, the evidence continues to pile up. These patients are of course the last ones who should consider leaving treatment. The reality is that they do, but it doesn’t have to be the end. The evidence is clear: to maximize gains from treatment, it’s in the best interest of the patient to maximize sessions. Addiction is hard to beat; this is no secret. But there is hope in the efficacy of treatment over time, so long as the investment is made.

At Novus Mindful Life, we can help to treat your sex addiction, or your porn addiction, or your addiction to gambling, and get you on track to recovery. The key here, of course, is staying the route. We have more than overwhelming evidence now to suggest that the longer you stay in treatment, the higher chance you have to leave in recovery. Please contact us and we would be more than happy to get you started on your road to healing,

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