What does the research say about TA?
TA is effective. More than 30 studies have demonstrated that TA is generally effective at improving outcomes for a variety of different types of clients with a wide array of clinical problems receiving intervention across many settings. Research shows that TA can be effective for: adults, children and families, adolescents and families, and couples; clients in the middle of therapy; clients seeking service at a university counseling clinic; clients hospitalized for severe mental health concerns; clients involved in the court system for a variety of reasons; students in college counseling centers; couples coping with chronic pain; clients with substance use problems; clients struggling with perfectionism; suicidal clients; and clients with stubborn personality and relationship issues.
TA improves mental health and prepares clients for next steps in treatment. Results across these studies indicate that after a TA clients experience (1) meaningful improvements in mental health or feel significantly less burdened by their symptoms (2) strong changes in attitudes essential for future therapy, such as trust, motivation, and positive relationships with mental health professionals. Also, clients who take part in a TA in the middle of therapy change at an increased rate after the assessment.
Results of TA can be achieved in very few sessions. It deserves mentioning that, compared to most individual therapy interventions, the results TA achieves can occur in relatively few sessions. There is strong evidence suggesting that ultra-brief versions of TA (i.e. spanning 3 or fewer sessions) lead to favorable outcomes--the key difference being that brief TAs tend to be more focused on a single problem or concern.
Effects are specific to the client population. For many clients, TA may directly lead to substantial benefits in depressive and anxiety symptoms, as well as increases in self-esteem, hope, and daily functioning. For clients with more stubborn and widespread problems, the main benefits are preparing the client for future help and support. Through the TA, clients start to think about treatment with more enthusiasm, trust, motivation, and they are more likely to follow up on suggestions for next steps. While these benefits may seem subtle, they can be quite important. Opening up again to the world, to social learning, and getting “unstuck” is a very powerful personal experience; this is consistently evident from client interviews, as well as from reports of referring professionals and subsequent providers of care.
Most clients will benefit from TA. The evidence to date, as well as clinical experience, suggest that most clients will benefit from participating in a TA. There are no contra-indications for TA on the basis of broad demographic or diagnostic variables. Those clients who can become self-curious are most likely to benefit.