by Michael D. Anestis, Ph.D.
In the past, we have discussed a number of studies indicating that the magnitude of effects in a variety of treatments ranging from antidepressants, to cognitive behavioral therapy, to psychodynamic psychotherapy have been either overstated or inflated due to publication bias. Now, this is not to imply that PBB is of the belief that treatments do not work. The data quite clearly indicate that they do; however, the magnitude of that effect for various treatments for various conditions remains a point of contention.
All this being said, an interesting debate is unfolding in real time and I thought that readers would benefit from reading it and, ideally, participating (with thoughtful, data-driven perspectives). This particular debate surrounds the degree to which antidepressant medications outperform placebo pills in the treatment of depression. Now, the debate certainly did not begin at this point; however, for readers hoping to get a sense of what is being said recently, a good starting point is this segment from a recent episode of "60 Minutes," in which Irving Kirsch, Ph.D., discusses his understanding of the data (click here to watch the clip).
From there, I would recommend moving over to PBB guest author Jim Coyne, Ph.D's blog "Skeptical Sleuth," where he has written two recent responses to the issue. The first post (click here to read it) responds directly to the "60 Minutes" segment." The second post (click here to read it) speaks more broadly about Kirsch's work in this area and pays closer attention to an earlier set of analyses. This second post is very interesting in that the comment section is starting to become active and includes a back-and-forth between Kirsh and Coyne. Regardless of where your understanding of the implications of the data, this is an interesting conversation to follow and a good opportunity to see an important scientific discussion amongst prolific members of the field.
I'm happy to hear your thoughts here about the issues, but I also encourage respectful and thoughtful comments in the already ongoing discussion in the links above.
Dr. Mike Anestis is a doctoral fellow with the Military Suicide Research Consortium and an incoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi.