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Br J Psychiatry. 1987 Dec;151:790-9.

Prescriptive v. exploratory psychotherapy. Outcomes of the Sheffield Psychotherapy Project.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield.


Prior research suggests that psychotherapeutic techniques which differ in their contents are quite similar in their outcomes. Outcome data are reported from a study designed to maximise sensitivity to technique effects on outcome in a clinically realistic setting, and to permit detailed analysis of the relations between content, immediate impact, and outcome of therapy. Forty professional and managerial workers with depression or anxiety received eight sessions of Prescriptive (cognitive/behavioural) and eight sessions of Exploratory (relationship-oriented) therapy in a crossover design, with each client seeing the same therapist throughout. Outcome was assessed by standard interview and questionnaire methods. The results favoured Prescriptive therapy, although this difference was of moderate extent. The outcome was largely unaffected by the order in which the two methods were offered.

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