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Letter: Patients know the worth of psychotherapy

Sir: Jerome Burne's report of Professor Robyn Dawes' work implies the endemic confusion between psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists. Their work is usually distinct. For example, while prison inmates and addicts in the UK may get to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist, few are offered psychotherapy. The reason is simple: it is often lengthy and expensive. Relatively little of it is publicly funded and when it is, like most other treatments, it is rationed.

There are problems with psychotherapy in Britain as there clearly are with its image. Regulation of the profession is still in its early stages. Psychotherapy is a term used to cover a variety of approaches, some of which could be suspect and this needs urgent attention. By its nature, the enterprise is confidential, even secretive, and this poses its own dangers and fantasies. Moreover, research into the psychotherapies is relatively recent.

But Mr Burne and those who share his views and perhaps fears, might consider that each time someone enters a psychotherapeutic relationship, this is in itself an experiment which warrants all the ethics and safeguards of any experimental procedure. The determination of success or failure, however, remains in the domain of the patient.


Member, British Confederation of Psychotherapists

London SW6