Yesterday, we reported on a new meta-analysis of psychodynamic psychotherapy that demonstrates the effectiveness of this type of therapy. Traditionally, psychodynamic therapy is thought to be “less scientific” than newer, modern psychotherapy treatments, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). We had previously noted how psychodynamic therapy fared just as well as CBT for anxiety disorders in another robust study.

The new research analysis — which reviewed eight meta-analyses of 160 studies of psychodynamic therapy — was published in the American Psychologist and showed robust effect sizes:

One major meta-analysis of psychodynamic therapy included 1,431 patients with a range of mental health problems and found an effect size of 0.97 for overall symptom improvement (the therapy was typically once per week and lasted less than a year). The effect size increased by 50 percent, to 1.51, when patients were re-evaluated nine or more months after therapy ended.

An effect size of 0.80 is considered “large” and significant in this field. Antidepressant drug studies typically have an effect size of around 0.31. The higher this number, the more effective the treatment is thought to be.

The eight meta-analyses, representing the best available scientific evidence on psychodynamic therapy, all showed substantial treatment benefits, according to Shedler. Effect sizes were impressive even for personality disorders—deeply ingrained maladaptive traits that are notoriously difficult to treat, he said.

“The consistent trend toward larger effect sizes at follow-up suggests that psychodynamic psychotherapy sets in motion psychological processes that lead to ongoing change, even after therapy has ended,” Shedler said.

The limitation of a review of this nature is that it may be cherry-picking the studies it includes to review — choosing the ones that will show psychodynamic psychotherapy in the best light. This review looked at eight other meta-analysis studies, but there may have been other studies left out of the review that showed smaller effect sizes.

But assuming the researchers were as objective as we all hope, this is another datapoint demonstrating that psychodynamic therapy is an effective type of psychotherapy. It also again shows us that although psychodynamic therapy is often not thought of in the same breath as “psychotherapy research,” it appears to slowly be coming into its own with supporting data. Nearly a century after it was first introduced. Better late than never.

Read the news article on the study: Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Is Beneficial



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2010
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2010). Psychodynamic Psychotherapy’s Positive Impact. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2015, from


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