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In pursuit of truth: A critical examination of meta-analyses of cognitive behavior therapy

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Wampold B.E., Flückiger C., Del Re A.C., Yulish N.E., Frost N.D., Pace B.T., Goldberg S.B., Miller S.D., Baardseth T.P., Laska K.M., Hilsenroth M.J.,
Project Design development in randomized clinical trials - Psychological treatment in generalized anxiety
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Psychotherapy Research
Page(s) 14 - 32
Title of proceedings Psychotherapy Research
DOI 10.1080/10503307.2016.1249433

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Objective: Three recent meta-analyses have made the claim, albeit with some caveats, that cognitive-behavioral treatments (CBT) are superior to other psychotherapies, in general or for specific disorders (e.g., social phobia). Method: The purpose of the present article was to examine four issues in meta-analysis that mitigate claims of CBT superiority: (a) effect size, power, and statistical significance, (b) focusing on disorder-specific symptom measures and ignoring other important indicators of psychological functioning, (c) problems inherent in classifying treatments provided in primary studies into classes of treatments, and (d) the inclusion of problematic trials, which biases the results, and the exclusion of trials that fail to find differences among treatments. Results: When these issues are examined, the effects demonstrating the superiority of CBT are small, nonsignificant for the most part, limited to targeted symptoms, or are due to flawed primary studies. Conclusion: Meta-analytic evidence for the superiority of CBT in the three meta-analysis are nonexistent or weak.