Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Psychodynamic therapy passes a test

In Brief

Psychodynamic therapy passes a test

A meta-analysis of 17 trials conducted over a period of 35 years suggests that short-term psychodynamic therapy is an effective treatment for a variety of psychiatric disorders.

Dynamic therapists concentrate on emotional conflicts and identify patterns in the patient's feelings and behavior, often with special attention to wishes, dreams, and fantasies. They emphasize the patient's relationship with the therapist, especially as it involves feelings transferred from earlier relationships and childhood experience in particular.

The 17 studies in the survey compared short-term psychodynamic therapy — an average of 7 to 40 sessions — with being placed on a waiting list or another kind of psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) in the treatment of disorders that included major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, cocaine addiction, social anxiety disorder, and borderline personality. Most of the studies had not been included in any previous meta-analysis.

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