Benefits of long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy

By Sheryl Kay • Published: February 16th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Remember when Lucy of Peanuts Gang fame would set up shop with her roadside psychiatric stand? Here’s the latest scientific advice, and it won’t cost you five cents: When it comes to reaping real benefits from psychotherapy, longer is better.

Researchers at the University of Giessen [gee-sin—hard “g”] in Germany found that long-term psychotherapy produces far more successful results than more commonly used short-term therapy protocols. In fact, improvement in symptoms is directly related to the number of therapy sessions patients undergo. The results appear in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers analyzed twenty-three studies of more than a thousand patients that compared long-term psychodynamic therapy… lasting a year or more… to other forms of therapy. Scientists rated target problems, general psychiatric symptoms, personality functioning and social functioning.

After treatment with long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, patients with complex mental disorders on average responded better than ninety-six percent of the patients in the comparison groups.

Researchers note that multifaceted mental disorders include long-term problems such as depression or anxiety. Psychodynamic therapy, they say, is different than short-term treatments in that it that it puts the focus on the importance of the patient-therapist relationship. This, they propose, may account for the greater success with long-term approaches.

Doctors also say that while the evidence proves long-term approaches do provide more substantial relief, patients shouldn’t shun short-term help if that’s all an insurance company will cover, particularly if the problem is more acute.