Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

The Effects of Inaccurate Expectations on Experiences with Psychotherapy

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Inaccurate expectations have been shown to negatively affect patients’ experiences with medical treatments; however, much less is known about the effects of inaccurate expectations on patients’ experiences with psychotherapy. This may be particularly important at the current time because, while many cultural outlets depict either nondirective or psychodynamic therapy, the majority of empirically supported treatments are guided by cognitive behavioral theory. Two studies examined (1) current expectations for psychological treatment and (2) the effects of accurate versus inaccurate expectations on students undergoing either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or nondirective therapy for nonclinical academic problems. Results from Study 1 suggest that people presenting for psychotherapy may be unlikely to expect the specific tasks and goals common to many CBTs. Results from Study 2 demonstrate negative effects of inaccurate expectations on affective reactions to treatment regardless of the type of treatment received. The implications for dissemination of empirically supported CBTs are discussed.


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Cogn Ther Res