Harvard Mental Health Letter

Merits of psychodynamic therapy

The research suggests that benefits of this therapy increase with time.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has emerged, both in the research literature and in the media, as a "first among equals" in psychotherapy — most often studied and most frequently cited in news reports. CBT seeks to change conscious thoughts and observable behaviors by making patients more aware of them. But considerable research also supports the efficacy of other types of psychotherapy, in particular psychodynamic therapy. In fact, a review in American Psychologist cited evidence that psychodynamic therapy is just as effective as CBT, and that the benefits may increase over time.

Psychodynamic therapy has its roots in psychoanalysis, the long-term "talking cure." Like psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy recognizes that the relationships and circumstances of early life continue to affect people as adults, that human behavior results from unconscious as well as conscious or rational motives, and that the act of talking about problems can help people find ways to solve them or at least to bear them.

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