What Factors Affect Therapeutic Efficacy?

Erik J.J. Goserud

Therapeutic efficacy can be defined as the effectiveness of a particular therapeutic method. Just as problems of the body can vary in a seemingly endless way, so can treatments. Some people swear by the Western practice of scientific medicine, usually involving pharmaceutical elements or proven modalities. Others prefer more experimental or Eastern approaches, and many types of therapies fall into this second category. Therapeutic efficacy is largely dependent upon numerous factors, including the type of therapy, duration, skills of the therapist, and dedication of the person receiving therapy.

Some methods of therapy, such as acupuncture, appear to be more subjective in terms of results.
Some methods of therapy, such as acupuncture, appear to be more subjective in terms of results.

Therapy is a broad term describing any form of treatment aimed to control, prevent, or treat a health problem. Although this seems to encompass every aspect of treatment, even pharmaceutical, therapies generally describe modalities outside of regularly taking a medication. Some common therapies include work with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor, as well as those more physical in nature, like acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, or massage therapy. These are usually repeatable measures and often take time to see positive effects.

The type of therapy is a major factor affecting therapeutic efficacy. Some types of therapy have been proven to be more effective than others. For example, there is objective evidence supporting alcoholic anonymous therapy and a decrease in drinking problems. Other methods, like acupuncture, seem to be more subjective in results. Although many supporters believe in acupuncture's therapeutic effects, it lacks the objective evidence backing up the therapeutic efficacy of this Eastern practice.

Just as there are good and bad lawyers, great and terrible doctors, and life-changing teachers among apathetic ones, the effectiveness of a therapy is often at the hands of the therapist. Some persons seem to have a knack for healing and a genuine interest in helping others coupled with an extensive knowledge and adept skill set that helps them help people. Others may have fallen into the health care profession by accident and may possess an apathetic haste in their practice.

The person receiving therapy is equally important to its effectiveness as the therapist or method being used. This is because it is up to each individual to follow the instructions of the therapist. Patients who need therapy and have it scheduled once a week for three months need to show up in order to achieve the desired results. If a therapist offers suggestions for things to work on or lifestyle changes, it is important for a patient to take these seriously.

Another factor is the duration of therapy. Therapy can be expensive, and there are an increasing amount of insurance issues preventing people from long-term therapeutic options without breaking the bank. It is not smart to sacrifice quality for inexpensiveness; however, alternatives may be limited.

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Discussion Comments


How is efficacy measured exactly? Is it measured based on long term effects or short term effects?

Sometimes a treatment works, but only for a short period of time until the problem occurs again. Is that treatment considered effective or not?


@literally45-- I don't know how effective these alternative methods are. I think some may be effective or at least they're harmless like acupuncture, yoga and meditation. But when it comes to treatment with herbs and various compounds, I'd think twice.

The FDA regulates and supervises what medications can be used in the US and in what doses. But the medications used in alternative medicine are not supervised. So I think that they carry more risk in terms of unwanted side effects and complications.

I think that Western medicine-- allopathy-- is better and safer.


Eastern methods of treatment are becoming more and more popular in the US. Americans have always been open-minded about treatment and interested in leading long, healthy lives. I've lived in a few countries and I've not seen such extensive use of vitamins and supplements in any other places. So when Eastern therapies and treatments started popping up, such as acupuncture, massage, Chinese medicine and Indian homeopathy, people tried them. And they must have been effective because these sort of things popularize through word of mouth.

Now we have acupuncture therapists and homeopathy doctors practically in every major city. And it goes to show that Western medicine isn't always superior to other methods, not always. It's still the best form of treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer. But mild conditions can be treated with alternative treatments also.

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