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Psychodynamic Therapy for Depression

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What Distinguishes Psychodynamic Therapy From Other Therapies for Depression? continued...

In psychodynamic therapy, the patient is encouraged to talk freely about whatever happens to be on his or her mind. As the patient does this, patterns of behavior and feelings that stem from past experiences and unrecognized feelings become apparent. The focus is put then on those patterns so the patient can become more aware of how past experience and the unconscious mind are affecting his or her present life.

Another distinction between the types of therapies is that psychodynamic therapy is not necessarily a short-term, time-limited treatment. While some courses of therapy may end after 16 to 20 weeks, other instances may go on for more than a year.

Is Psychodynamic Therapy an Effective Treatment for Depression?

Until recently, it was commonly thought there was little or no evidence to support the effectiveness of psychodynamic therapy as a treatment for depression. Part of the reason was that practitioners of psychodynamic therapy were not as focused on doing empirical research as practitioners of other therapies such as CBT and IPT. But over the past couple of decades, that has changed and more studies have appeared.

Early in 2010, a report published in the American Psychologist reviewed the data from existing studies of psychodynamic therapy and depression. The author concluded that not only did the data show that psychodynamic therapy was at least as effective as other evidence-based therapies, but also the benefits of psychodynamic therapy appeared to be longer lasting.

What Are the Main Features of Psychodynamic Therapy?

Psychodynamic therapy involves an exploration of the entire range of a patient's emotions. With the help of the therapist, the patient finds ways to talk about feelings that include contradictory feelings, feelings that are troubling or threatening, and feelings that the patient may not have recognized or acknowledged in the past. This exploration takes place in a context that recognizes the fact that being able to explain the reason for an emotional difficulty does not mean the person is capable of doing anything about it. The goal then is to foster the internal resources needed to deal with and effectively manage those difficulties.

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