In Brief

The future of psychotherapy looks bright, but not for conventional long-term psychotherapy in individual private practice, according to the latest Delphi poll, which makes predictions about the field every 10 years. The latest poll appears in the Professional Psychology: Research and Practice (Vol. 33, No. 3).

While long-term therapies are expected to decline, therapy based on short-term treatments--involving problem-solving, cognitive restructuring, solution-focused and skill training--are expected to rise, which has been a continuing theme in the Delphi poll since the first poll in 1980.

"And this has gradually come true," says lead researcher John C. Norcross, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton. "That's where the blending of psychotherapy and psychoeducation occur because many people are being triaged--with self-help guides or group therapy--instead of long-term therapy."

The poll also predicted a "high likelihood" of the following:

  • Expansion of evidence-based therapies.

  • Increase in master's-level psychotherapists (including mandatory license/certification).

  • Practice guidelines that practitioners would be expected to follow.

  • Technology used in psychotherapy, e.g. virtual therapy, video conferencing and hand-held devices.

  • Greater use of behavioral medicine.

  • An increase in pharmacotherapy.

The poll, which was based on a survey of 62 journal editors and from those previously sampled in Delphi studies, predicts that items "least likely" to occur in 2010 would be increased funding for psychotherapy training, psychotherapy regulation by a federal agency, and an increase in the number of doctoral-level specialists in the field.

"I would say 80 percent or better of the predictions come true," says Norcross, who has conducted three Delphi polls on the future of psychotherapy. "But there have been some mispredictions--like that we would have national health insurance by now."