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Horses for courses: choosing an evidence-based psychological therapy for your patient

  • David McCormack (a1) and Trudie Chalder (a2)

Choosing an intervention for a patient experiencing distressing symptoms and/or suffering with a mental disorder is part of routine practice for clinicians. While there are now many effective pharmacological and psychological therapies for mental health problems, syndromes and persistent physical symptoms (e.g. chronic pain), choosing the ‘right’ therapy can sometimes be a challenge. This can certainly be the case when it comes to psychological therapies. There are many different approaches to choose from and many have not been subjected to rigorous study.

In this article, we aim to help inform and guide the busy clinician in choosing a psychological therapy for their patient. We give a brief overview of the major psychotherapy modalities and consider which guidelines to refer to and which psychological therapies have been found to be most effective for the presenting problem(s) seen in clinic. Lastly, we discuss the limitations of the current guidelines in relation to comorbid presentations and consider how this can be best addressed.


  • Develop knowledge regarding the major psychotherapy approaches
  • Be aware that there is no psychotherapy equivalence
  • Learn that there is good evidence that some approaches are more effective than others for specific problems and be better able to choose a psychological therapy


D. McC. works on research trials funded by the Guy's and St Thomas’ Charity. T. C. receives salary support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Mental Health Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London, and receives several grants for evaluating the efficacy of different cognitive–behavioural approaches. This article received no specific grant from any funding agency, or from the commercial or not-for-profit sectors. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the NHS.

Corresponding author
Correspondence Professor Trudie Chalder, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, UK. Email:
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Horses for courses: choosing an evidence-based psychological therapy for your patient

  • David McCormack (a1) and Trudie Chalder (a2)
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