Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 367–385 | Cite as

The public's perception of psychotherapy and counseling: Differential views on the effectiveness of psychologists, psychiatrists, and other providers

  • Patrick Richardson
  • Paul Handal


This study examined the public's perceptions relative to the effectiveness of psychotherapy and counseling, expectations of treatment efficacy for different psychotherapy and counseling providers (i.e., clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, counselors, general medical practitioners, marital and family therapists, psychiatrists, self-help groups, and social workers), professional characteristics, and factors that may influence treatment utilization in an adult population. The sample viewed psychotherapy or counseling as moderately effective and perceived psychotherapy/counseling to be effective for 26 to 50 percent of all cases. The perceived amount of time necessary for noticeable improvement in psychotherapy or counseling was approximately four months, and the expected necessary length of treatment was approximately eight months. Participants stated they were moderately willing to seek psychotherapy or counseling if they were to experience a mental problem, and reported discernible differences among the eight psychotherapy/counseling providers in terms of treatment efficacy. Differences were also found in the relative perception of providers' personal/professional qualities and characteristics.


Public Health Social Psychology Social Worker Adult Population Treatment Efficacy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1987).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (3rd ed, rev). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Bascue, L. O., & Inman, D. J. (1984). A comparison of private practice activities of clinical and counseling psychologists.Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 2, 67–73.Google Scholar
  3. Fitzgerald, L. F., & Osipow, S. H. (1986). An occupational analysis of psychology: How special is the specialty?American Psychologist, 41, 535–544.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Halgin, R. P., & Weaver, D. D. (1986) Salient beliefs about obtaining psychotherapy.Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 4(1) 23–31.Google Scholar
  5. Hillerbrand, E. T., & Claiborn, C. D. (1988). Ethical knowledge exhibited by clients and nonclients.Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 19, 527–531.Google Scholar
  6. Kabatznick, R. (1984).The public's perception of psychology: Attitudes of four selected groups. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, City University of New York.Google Scholar
  7. Myers, J. K., Weissman, M. M., Tischler, G. L., Holzer, C. E., Leaf, P. J., Orvaschel, H., Anthony, J. C., Boyd, J. H., Burke, J. D., Kramer, M., & Stoltzman, R. (1984). Six month prevalence of psychiatrie disorders in three communities.Archives of General Psychiatry, 41, 959–967.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Norcross, J. C., & Prochaska, J. O. (1982a). A national survey of clinical psychologists: Characteristics and activities.The Clinical Psychologist, 35, 1–8.Google Scholar
  9. Schindler, F., Berren, M. R., Hannah, M. T., Beigel, A., & Santiago, J. M. (1987). How the public perceives psychiatrists, psychologists, non-psychiatric physicians and members of the clergy.Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 18, 371–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. United States Department of Commerce (1990).Census of the population. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  11. Warner, D. L., & Bradley, J. R. (1991). Undergraduate psychology students' views of counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists: A challenge to academic psychologists.Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 22, 138–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Watkins, C. E., Jr., Lopez, F. G., Campbell, V. L., & Himmell, C. D. (1986). Contemporary counseling psychology: Results of a national survey.Journal of Counseling Psychology, 33, 301–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Watkins, C. E., Jr., Lopez, F. G., Campbell, V. L., & Himmell, C. D. (1989). Counseling psychologists in private practice: Who are they? What do they do? What do they practice?Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 7, 135–150.Google Scholar
  14. Webb, A. R., & Speer, J. R. (1985). The public image of psychologists.American Psychologist, 40, 1063–1064.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Webb, A. R., & Speer, J. R. (1986). Prototype of a profession: Psychology's public image.Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 17, 5–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Wollersheim, D. M., & Walsh, J. A. (1993). Clinical psychologists: Professionals without a role.Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 24, 171–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Wood, W., Jones, M., & Benjamin, L. T. (1986). Surveying psychology's public image.American Psychologist, 41, 947–953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Zwick, R., & Attkisson, C. C. (1984). The use of reception checks in client pretherapy orientation research.Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40, 446–452.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Richardson
  • Paul Handal
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychological Services CenterSt. Louis

Personalised recommendations