Open Access Research article

Psychotherapy as a treatment modality for psychiatric disorders: Perceptions of general public of Karachi, Pakistan

Abdul Mueed Zafar1*, Ali Jawaid2, Hiba Ashraf3, Ambreena Fatima3, Rubina Anjum3 and Salah U Qureshi2

Author Affiliations

1 Aga Khan University Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Department of Neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA

3 Department of Family Medicine, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Psychiatry 2009, 9:37  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-37

Published: 15 June 2009



Psychiatric disorders affect about 450 million individuals worldwide. A number of treatment modalities such as psychotropic medications, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy can be used to treat these disorders. Attitudes of general public play a pivotal role in effective utilization of mental health services. We explored the perceptions of general public of Karachi, Pakistan regarding psychotherapy.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in Karachi, Pakistan during July-August, 2008. A three-step sampling strategy and a structured questionnaire were employed to survey knowledge and perceptions of adult general public about psychotherapy. Descriptive statistics were used for baseline characteristics. Logistic regression models were used to investigate any significant associations between baseline characteristics of the participants and their perceptions.


The study sample comprised of 985 individuals (536 males; 531 financially independent) with an average age of 36.7 years (SD 13.54 years) and 12.5 years (SD 3.09 years) of education were included. Majority (59.4%; n = 585) claimed to be aware of psychotherapy as a treatment option for psychiatric disorders but 47.5% of these (n = 278/585) failed to identify its correct definition. Concerns voiced by the participants about psychotherapy included stigma (48.7%) and breech in confidentiality (39.5%); 60.7% opined it cost effective and 86.5% favored its use as an adjuvant modality. A preference for psychotherapy as the treatment strategy for psychiatric disorders was demonstrated by 46.6% (n = 459/985). Younger, more educated, financially independent and female participants were more likely to prefer psychotherapy as were those who deemed it cost effective.


Positive attitudes regarding the acceptability, clinical utility and cost-effectiveness of psychotherapy were observed in a sample representative of general public of Karachi, Pakistan. These findings highlight its potential utility for devising pragmatic mental health strategies in the face of limited resources.