3-year Study: Psychodynamic therapy more effective than CBT for depression

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Psychodynamic treatment focuses on the therapeutic relationship - Mark Ettensohn, Psy.D., Sacramento therapistA German research team published the results of a 3-year follow-up study comparing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapies for depression.

They compared measures of depression, personality, and interpersonal relationships for 100 test subjects at pre- and post-treatment, and then again after three years. According to the researchers, “Psychodynamic therapy was superior to cognitive-behaviour therapy in the reduction of interpersonal problems. Psychoanalytic therapy shows significantly longer-lasting effects compared to cognitive-behaviour therapy three years after termination of treatment.”

As someone who provides psychodynamic treatment, I am not at all surprised by the results of this study. Cognitive behavioral approaches to treatment tend to have a narrow, problem-specific focus. However, as numerous studies have demonstrated, the most robust curative factor in therapy is the therapeutic relationship. CBT and CBT-like approaches tend to treat the therapeutic relationship as somewhat irrelevant to the task at hand.

Contemporary psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approaches, on the other hand, often place the therapeutic relationship front and center. Much time and attention is spent developing a trusting, safe, and healing therapeutic environment. Specific interactions between therapist and patient are discussed and synthesized with an ever growing understanding of the complex intersection between the patient’s personal history, current relationships, and emotional reality. As therapist and patient work together to understand the patient’s psychology, the patient simultaneously learns a new way of approaching the the world that carries long-term benefits.

For a link to the study abstract, click here.

To learn more about psychodynamic therapy, see this article, by Jonathan Shedler.

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