The evidence for psychodynamic psychotherapy is stronger than most people think

Doubts are often cast on the effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy and for years there has been a prevailing view that CBT is the only evidence-based approach. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Granted there is a lot of evidence supporting the effectiveness for cognitive and other so-called 'empirical' methods but many people do not know that the body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy is equally strong.

A good recent example is a study published in September looking at 20 weeks of psychodynamic psychotherapy involving people with depression in the National Health Service in the UK. This research was led by Professor Peter Fonagy who is head of the Department of Clinical, Education and Health Psychology at University College London. For a summary of the benefits/evidence for psychodynamic psychotherapy, have a look at Dr Jonathan Shedler's paper summarising findings which was published in 2010. Dr Shedler is a psychiatrist from University of Colorado, Denver School of medicine. 

The key points made in Shedler's review include: 

  1. Empirical evidence supports the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy. 
  2. The perception that psychodynamic approaches lack empirical support does not accord with available scientific evidence and may reflect selective dissemination of research findings.
  3. Effect sizes for psychodynamic therapy are as large as those reported for other therapies that have been actively promoted as “empirically supported” and “evidence based.”
  4. Patients who receive psychodynamic therapy maintain therapeutic gains and appear to continue to improve after treatment ends.
  5. non-psychodynamic therapies may be effective in part because the more skilled practitioners utilise techniques that have long been central to psychodynamic theory and practice. 
Posted on October 30, 2015 .