Jens Gaab
Associate Professor Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Department of Psychology, University of Basel

Placebo and Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a psychological intervention, which has a long track record and which has been shown to have proven and clinically significant effects in a multitude of psychological disorders and problems. But let’s face it: The same can be said about the placebo. But does this resemblance suffice to equal both interventions? On the basis of conceptual, empirical and ethical arguments and findings I will argue that the aforementioned interventions share many features and processes (and thus psychotherapy can of course be a placebo!), but that it is possible for psychotherapy to be anything but placebo. However and therefore, the current reciprocal non-consideration of both interventions should best be ended, which would have important consequences on psychotherapy practice and research.

Jens Gaab is a psychologist and psychotherapist. After completing his studies in psychology at the University of Trier, he enjoyed his PhD and Postdoc at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Since 2011, he is Associate Professor for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the Department of Psychology of the University of Basel, Switzerland, where he and his team are determined and eager to examine the placebo and its effects in different settings, populations and interventions, to explore the relationship between placebo and psychotherapy and to test ethically acceptable ways to harness the placebo and its effects.