Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychotherapists often feel hard-pressed to find good evidence of how effective their work can be. Jonathan Shedler’s US study, published in the American Psychologist in 2010, puts these concerns to rest. We’ve published a link to the pdf below.

It is an immensely comprehensive review of dozens and dozens of studies impressively demonstrating how effective dynamic therapies are in creating, and sustaining, long term change. From 1980 to the present day, it shows unequivocally how effective psychodynamic therapy is for short-term and long-term work; how much more effective it is than alternatives such as CBT, and how markedly more effective it is than medication.

These findings have been reached by detailed, rigorous statistical analysis, often drawing on randomised control trials. Psychotherapists may not want to read the detail, though it is both accessible and persuasive, but they will readily make sense of Shedler’s opening and closing summary and a table of outcomes. This demonstrates how psychotherapy ranks against other forms of treatment using the statistical measure of effect sizes. As he writes, ‘An effect size of 0.8 is considered a large effect in psychological and medical research, an effect size of 0.5 is considered a moderate effect, and an effect size of 0.2 is considered a small effect’. The table shows that psychodynamic treatment routinely falls into the 0.75 bracket or well above whilst medication, for example, varies between 0.17 and 0.31.

In his closing comments, he notes that many critical commentators still hold a view of psychotherapy derived from the early twentieth century, as if nothing has developed since then. He goes on to add that ‘A second irony is that relatively few clinical practitioners, including psychodynamic practitioners, are familiar with the research reviewed in this article.’

If you read Shedler’s research, you will certainly not belong in this group. Link to pdf: http://bit.ly/1ns17T7

John Farnsworth