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The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic Therapy is an Evidence-Based Practice

Although it’s very common for individuals to call my office in search of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, it’s rare for someone to call and ask for Psychodynamic Therapy.

And yet recent research has now shown psychodynamic therapy to be an “evidence-based” practice. In other words, research shows it works.

(Click here to see the article featured in Scientific American. This article highlights the work of Jonathan Shedler, who conducted a meta-analysis to show that psychodynamic therapy is indeed effective. Meta-analysis is a sophisticated statistical technique for putting studies on a common yardstick so that can be quantitatively compared).

What is psychodynamic therapy?

Well, for starters it’s not psychoanalysis, though many people erroneously equate the two.

Whereas cognitive therapy places emphasis on cognition or thought, distorted thinking, and dysfunctional beliefs, psychodynamic therapy places emphasis on emotion, processes of self-deception, anxiety, and hidden feelings -- in the context of relationships.

Whereas cognitive therapy stays strictly in the here-and-now, psychodynamic therapy places symptoms and problems in the context of one’s personal history.

Whereas cognitive therapy relies heavily on psycho-education (how thoughts influences emotions and behaviors), psychodynamic therapy relies on discovering patterns and themes in the patient’s psychological life, which may be just outside of the patient’s everyday awareness.

Cognitive therapy has received a great deal of air-play in the last couple decades, so people are aware of it. And frankly, unlike psychodynamic therapy, cognitive therapy is easy to understand. But some problems do not yield to cognitive interventions. Sometimes we really do need to get dig just a bit deeper into the psyche to resolve certain types of difficulties. Psychodynamic therapy is one way to go about that. It’s nice to see researchers put their stamp of approval on the method.