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One size does not fit all: Motivational predictors of contextual benefits of therapy


Correspondence should be addressed to Professor Michael Hyland, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK (e-mail:


Background. A common sense view in psychotherapy holds that there are individual differences in response to different treatments. However, despite considerable effort, no clear rationale exists to guide the selection of therapy for individual patients.

Objectives. Rather than focusing on specific components of therapy as a basis to predict interactions between patients and treatments, we draw on motivational concordance theory and a contextual model of psychotherapy to test whether, in an analogue study, perceived effectiveness of different therapy vignettes is related to human values.

Method. Two samples (undergraduates and members of the public) read short vignettes, informed by six therapies for depression (cognitive behaviour therapy, client-centred therapy, antidepressant medication, existential psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and a complementary medicine: Bach flower essences), provided ratings of perceived effectiveness, and completed questionnaire measures of dispositional motivations (Schwartz Values Scale and the Spiritual Connection Questionnaire-14). Responses were analysed using multidimensional scaling (MDS).

Results. In both samples, expectancy for the cognitive behavioural-informed vignette was related to Self-direction and Stimulation, and was opposed to Tradition, Conformity and Security. Expectancies for the Drug vignette were associated with Power and Security.

Conclusion. People perceive therapies as more effective if the therapy is congruent with their values. These preliminary data suggest motivational concordance is a useful framework for predicting client-treatment interactions.