Psychotherapy side effects

It is a fact that psychotherapy can have negative effects. Still, there is a lack of research and data in this respect. There are even discussions on what to call a side effect.


        Theoretical work has tried to give a definition of side effects. These are all negative effects due to adequate treatment, in contrast to negative developments unrelated to the treatment (e.g. non-response) or results of malpractice.


        The "UE-ATR checklist" was developed to assess side effects in a structured way. It starts with looking for unwanted events, then asks whether they are related to the treatment and tries to make a judgement on the appropriateness of interventions.


        Group therapy poses special problems in respect to side effects, as there is not only the therapist but also the other patients. To specifically asses side effects of group psychotherapy the “UE-G questionnaire" was developed. It could be shown that sitting together in a group with other patients and playing games can already pose burdens on some patients because they feel claustrophobic, or embarrassed to expose oneself, or forced to interact.


        In a study on group treatment for anxiety it could be shown that a major side effect is demoralization. Just by observing other patients and by listening to what the therapist explains, patients can get the feeling that they are worse off than they thought before and that they can not do much about their problem.


        A specialty of psychotherapy is that side effects can also touch partners of the patient. The "Therapy Experience Questionnaire (TeF)" allows to ask patients and partners alike how they experienced the treatment and can so catch burdens on both sides. The results suggest that partners and relatives do not suffer big burdens, although there is some distrust about what is going on during the therapeutic encounter and what the patient may tell about the partner.

Research database

For more details please use the Charité undefinedresearch database.