Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Supported by Evidence

An investigator argues that the approach is effective and empirically based
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Psychodynamic psychotherapy, the treatment approach similar to, but less extensive than, full psychoanalysis, is efficacious and well-supported by scientific evidence, despite a perception that it lacks empirical support, according to an article published online Jan. 25 in the American Psychologist.

Jonathan Shedler, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, reviewed the literature on psychodynamic treatment to argue that the approach, often discounted as not supported by empirical evidence, is in fact well-supported by a number of studies; that psychodynamic treatment practices are often employed effectively within other approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); and that research outcome metrics do not adequately measure inner capacities and resources developed by psychodynamic treatment.

The author reviewed three meta-analyses that encompassed 530 studies of general psychotherapy and eight meta-analyses comprising 74 studies of psychodynamic psychotherapy. The meta-analyses produced effect sizes ranging from 0.73 to 0.85 for general psychotherapy and from 0.78 to 1.46 for psychodynamic psychotherapy -- larger effects than seen for CBT and antidepressants. He also pointed to a 1998 study which concluded that unacknowledged conformance to the psychodynamic prototype within nominal CBT predicted better outcomes, while conformance to the CBT protocol did not.

"Finally, the evidence indicates that the benefits of psychodynamic treatment are lasting and not just transitory, and appear to extend well beyond symptom remission. For many people, psychodynamic therapy may foster inner resources and capacities that allow richer, freer, and more fulfilling lives," Shedler concludes.

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