Do people prefer psychotherapy to drug therapy?

Around 1 in 5 people quit therapy early, and that rate seems higher if people given pharmacotherapy alone. In this episode, I talk with Dr Joshua Swift, Assistant Professor in Psychology, based at Idaho State University in the USA. In this conversation, we focus on Joshua’s work with his colleagues on treatment refusal and premature termination in psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and their combination.

Here is the link to the paper we talk about in this week’s show:

Here is the abstract for some context:

The purpose of this meta-analysis was to examine rates of treatment refusal and premature termination for pharmacotherapy alone, psychotherapy alone, pharmacotherapy plus psychotherapy, and psychotherapy plus pill placebo treatments. A systematic review of the literature resulted in 186 comparative trials that included a report of treatment refusal and/or premature termination for at least 2 of the 4 treatment conditions. The data from these studies were pooled using a random-effects analysis. Odds Ratio effect sizes were then calculated to compare the rates between treatment conditions, once across all studies and then again for specific client disorder categories. An average treatment refusal rate of 8.2% was found across studies. Clients who were assigned to pharmacotherapy were 1.76 times more likely to refuse treatment compared with clients who were assigned psychotherapy. Differences in refusal rates for pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy were particularly evident for depressive disorders, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. On average, 21.9% of clients prematurely terminated their treatment. Across studies, clients who were assigned to pharmacotherapy were 1.20 times more likely to drop out compared with clients who were assigned to psychotherapy. Pharmacotherapy clients with anorexia/bulimia and depressive disorders dropped out at higher rates compared with psychotherapy clients with these disorders. Treatment refusal and dropout are significant problems in both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy and providers of these treatments should seek to employ strategies to reduce their occurrence.

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