Research on Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy has demonstrated its efficacy for  treating a wide range of mental health disorders both in the long and short term and when compared to other treatment modalities such as CBT. For example, a randomised control trial of severely depressed young people found that 30 sessions of child psychotherapy plus parent work was a highly effective form of treatment ('Childhood depression: a place for psychotherapy,' Trowell et al, European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, April 2007, Vol 16, Issue 3, pp 157-167). Child psychotherapy is now recommended in the NICE Guidelines (UK) as an effective treatment for depression. 


Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is also known to have a 'sleeper effect' i.e. its benefits endure over time and can increase with time. Adults who received psychoanalytic psychotherapy as children report benefits in their adult lives because psychoanaytic psychotherapy extends its focus to interpersonal relationships not just mental health symptoms. "...There is now enough research evidence to claim that psychodynamic therapy is an evidence-based treatment with effect sizes similar to or superior to those reported for other psychotherapies…it is encouraging that the benefits of psychodynamic therapy not only endure after therapy ends, but increase with time. This suggests that insights gained during psychodynamic therapy may equip patients with psychological skills that grow stronger with use" (Harvard Medical School, 2010).


Independent systematic and thematic reviews of research (Kennedy, 2004, Kennedy and Midgley, 2007, Midgley and Kennedy, 2011) concluded that psychoanalytic child psychotherapy was effective in treating children and young people with:

  • depression

  • anxiety

  • behaviour disorders

  • personality disorders

  • learning difficulties

  • eating disorders

  • developmental issues

It was also found to be effective in helping sexually abused girls, those who have suffered early emotional deprivation, and children with poorly controlled diabetes to manage their emotional responses to their illness. These reviews also found that improvements were sustained or even enhanced long term.


Full Article References:

Kennedy (2004) Child and AdolescentPsychotherapy:A Systematic Review of Psychoanalytic Approaches

Kennedy & Midgeley (2007) Process and Outcome Research in Child, Adolescent and Parent-infant Psychotherapy: A thematic review

Midgely & Kennedy (2011) Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Children and Adolescents: A Critical Review of the Evidence Base


Further Evidence:


Is Child Psychotherapy effective for children and young people? (Child Psychotherapy Trust, 1998)


The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy by Jonathan Shedler (2010, American Psychologist) 


Comparison of cognitive-behaviour therapy with psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy for depressed patients – A three-year follow-up study by Huber, Zimmermann, Henrich & Klug (2012, Psychosom Med Psychother 58, 299–316, ISSN 1438-3608). In this study of depressed adults psychoanalytic therapy showed significantly longer-lasting effects compared to cognitive-behaviour therapy three years after termination of treatment. 


Carsten René Jørgensen (2012, Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University & the Clinic for Personality Disorders, Aarhus University Hospital) found psychoanalytic based group and individual psychotherapy to be highly effective in treating borderline personality disorders in adults. 


A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy for Panic Disorder by Milrod et al. ( Am J Psychiatry 2007 ; 164 :265-272. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.164.2.265) found adults with panic disorders treated by panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy had significantly greater reduction in severity of panic symptoms compared to those receiving applied relaxation training. Changes in psychosocial functioning was also found in the patients who received psychodynamic psychotherapy. 


Focal psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, and optimised treatment as usual in outpatients with anorexia nervosa (ANTOP study): randomised controlled trial by Zipfel et al (The Lancet 01/2014; 383:127-137. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61746-8). This study found Focal psychodynamic therapy and CBT to be more effective than optimized therapy as usual for the treatment of anorexia in adult women, “focal psychodynamic therapy proved to be the most successful method, while the specific cognitive-behavioral therapy resulted in more rapid weight gain.” Patients undergoing focal psychodynamic therapy required additional inpatient treatment less often. 



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