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Fonagy P. (2015b). The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapies: An update. World Psychiatry, 14:137-150.


Fonagy P. (2015b). The effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapies: An update. World Psychiatry, 14: 137–150.

Article first published online: 4 JUN 2015


This paper provides a comprehensive review of outcome studies and meta-analyses of effectiveness studies of psychodynamic therapy (PDT) for the major categories of mental disorders. Comparisons with inactive controls (waitlist, treatment as usual and placebo) generally but by no means invariably show PDT to be effective for depression, some anxiety disorders, eating disorders and somatic disorders. There is little evidence to support its implementation for post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, cocaine dependence or psychosis. The strongest current evidence base supports relatively long-term psychodynamic treatment of some personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder. Comparisons with active treatments rarely identify PDT as superior to control interventions and studies are generally not appropriately designed to provide tests of statistical equivalence. Studies that demonstrate inferiority of PDT to alternatives exist, but are small in number and often questionable in design. Reviews of the field appear to be subject to allegiance effects. The present review recommends abandoning the inherently conservative strategy of comparing heterogeneous “families” of therapies for heterogeneous diagnostic groups. Instead, it advocates using the opportunities provided by bioscience and computational psychiatry to creatively explore and assess the value of protocol-directed combinations of specific treatment components to address the key problems of individual patients.

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