This type of therapy used self-reflection and self-examination. The use of the relationship between therapist and patient is intended to serve as a window into problematic relationship patterns in the patient's life.
"The American public has been told that only newer, symptom-focused treatments like cognitive behavior therapy or medication have scientific support," study author Jonathan Shedler of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine says in the statement. "The actual scientific evidence shows that psychodynamic therapy is highly effective. The benefits are at least as large as those of other psychotherapies, and they last."
Shedler reviewed eight meta-analyses comprising 160 studies of psychodynamic therapy, plus nine meta-analyses of other psychological treatments and antidepressant medications. He focused on effect size, which measures the amount of change produced by each treatment.
An effect size of 0.80 is considered a large effect in psychological and medical research. 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 for the most widely used antidepressant medications is a more modest 0.31.
The findings are scheduled to be published in the February issue of American Psychologist.