Rate and predictors of negative effects of psychotherapy in psychiatric and psychosomatic inpatients

Psychiatry Res. 2017 Aug;254:143-150. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.04.042. Epub 2017 Apr 23.


Studies examining the rates of negative effects of psychotherapy are rare and the reported rates differ widely. To be able to calculate adequate benefit-cost ratios in conjunction with different samples and settings, we need a deeper understanding of these effects. We therefore investigated whether different treatment settings would reveal varying rates and kinds of negative effects by recruiting patients from a psychiatric (n=93) and a psychosomatic rehabilitation (n=63) hospital. Negative effects of psychotherapy were assessed with the Inventory for the Assessment of Negative Effects of Psychotherapy post-treatment. To investigate whether patients' pre-treatment expectations have an influence on reported negative effects, patients filled in the Patient Questionnaire on Therapy Expectation and Evaluation prior to treatment begin. Patients from the psychiatric hospital reported an average 1.41 negative effects, with 58.7% reporting at least one negative effect. Those from the psychosomatic hospital reported 0.76 negative effects on average, with 45.2% of patients reporting at least one negative effect. The differences between these samples are significant. The two samples' top three reported types of negative effects are that patients had experienced more downs during or just before the end of the therapy, that patients had difficulty making important decisions without the therapist, and that patients were concerned that colleagues or friends might find out about the therapy. A regression analysis revealed that the clinical setting (psychosomatic rehabilitation hospital vs. psychiatric hospital) and expectations in the form of hope of improvement were significant predictors for negative effects of psychotherapy. Our study highlights the need to examine the negative effects of psychotherapy in different settings and samples to better evaluate the benefit-cost ratios of treatments for different patient groups. It also shows that we need guidelines for assessing and reporting negative effects.

Keywords: Malpractice; Side effects.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / trends
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy / trends*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome