Dodo Bird Verdict in Psychotherapy

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, learn what a long extinct flightless bird has to do with psychotherapy. Discover where the Dodo Bird Verdict originated from and whether it is true or not!

The Dodo Bird Verdict

The Dodo bird is a now extinct species of flightless bird that once inhabited the island of Mauritius. It was actually a pretty big bird, roughly 50 pounds in weight, with a 9-inch bill. Around 1507, Portuguese sailors first spotted this bird and in less than 200 years man, and the animals he brought to the island, completely wiped out the animal.

The Dodo Bird (Center)

This bird was part of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where its character essentially declared that everyone wins and everyone gets a prize after a race. Inasmuch, the Dodo Bird Verdict, introduced by psychologist Saul Rosenzweig, basically states that the more than 500 different kinds of psychotherapies are equally effective.

Is this true? Let's explore this topic a bit more in depth.

Is the Verdict Really True? Yes

The basis for the Dodo Bird Verdict is that it doesn't matter whether or not behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive therapy, or some other therapy altogether is used to help a person. The real meat behind the recovery process for the patient, is that the patient has the opportunity to talk to a skilled professional with a sympathetic ear and that he is willing to follow the directions his psychotherapist gives him in order to help him recover.

Is this true? While some research studies do seem to show that a particular kind of psychotherapy is superior to another, many of these studies have actually been conducted by proponents of that 'superior' therapy technique, making others question whether the study was truly impartial.

Other studies, going back to at least the 1970s, have shown all therapies to work equally well. In fact, in 1997 another study about this was conducted by psychologist Bruce Wampold. It analyzed more than 200 scientific studies, with respect to this question, and found that if there was a difference in one mainstream therapy's effectiveness over another, it was minimal.

If this is indeed true, if all therapies are equally effective, why is this the case? Well, look at lions, tigers, and domestic cats. They all look different but you'll agree they all share common core features. For instance, they're carnivores, they have very sharp teeth, and they all have a not-so-hidden contempt for inferior species, like humans.

And so one explanation for the Dodo Bird Verdict is that, in the end, all these different types of psychotherapies have common core features and that's why they're essentially equally effective. What are these core features? I sort of hinted at them before. They are:

  • A therapist with skill
  • A sympathetic (or empathetic) therapist
  • A close rapport between the therapist and patient
  • Common therapeutic goals

These core features essentially trump any superficial differences between the varying therapies.

Are We Sure the Verdict Is Really True? Not Necessarily

But we have to be careful here. There is always another side to the story. Even Wampold noted in his research that his conclusions do not extend to all of the more than 500 therapies around today. His research mainly focused on therapies that have been shown to have sound psychological principles in various publications.

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