Empirical support for person-centred/experiential psychotherapies: meta-analysis update 2008

Robert Elliott, Beth Freire

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Understanding and contributing to the evidence base that supports their practice is a key survival strategy for Person-Centred/Experiential therapists and counsellors. Building on previous meta-analytic studies (e.g., Elliott, Greenberg & Lietaer, 2004), we added another 80 predominantly recent outcome studies to the large sample previously reported, in order to provide an analysis of more than 200 quantitative outcome studies on person-centred, nondirective-supportive, process-experiential/emotion-focused, and other experiential therapies. Consistent with previous versions of this meta-analysis, we found the following: (1) Clients in PCE therapies experience dlarge amounts of pre-post change. (2) Posttherapy gains were maintained over early and late follow-ups. (3) In controlled studies, clients experienced large gains relative to untreated groups. (4) In general, PCE therapies appeared to be statistically and clinically equivalent when compared to non-PCE therapies. (5) In focused comparisons examining four different types of PCE therapy, CBT was clearly superior to nondirective-supportive therapies, but equivalent to bona fide person-centred therapy; emotion-focused therapy appeared to be superior to CBT; while other experiential therapies were equivalent to CBT in effectiveness. These results held regardless of whether analyses made use of all available studies or were restricted to RCT studies only. These results are consistent with complementary lines of evidence relating empathy to outcome (Bohart et al., 2002), and client treatment preference data. Taken together, the body of evidence clearly indicates that PCE therapies should offered to clients in primary care, NHS, and other mental health settings. Relying on multiple lines of evidence, such as provided in the present study, provides a sound basis for establishing public mental health policy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Mar 2009
EventSPR (UK) Ravenscar research Conference 2009 - Ravenscar
Duration: 14 Mar 200916 Mar 2009


ConferenceSPR (UK) Ravenscar research Conference 2009


  • empirical support
  • person-centred/experiential psychotherapies
  • meta-analysis


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