Public Release: 

Longer-duration psychotherapy appears more beneficial for treatment of complex mental disorders

The JAMA Network Journals

Psychodynamic psychotherapy lasting for at least a year is effective and superior to shorter-term therapy for patients with complex mental disorders such as personality and chronic mental disorders, according to a meta-analysis published in the October 1 issue of JAMA.

Evidence indicates that short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy is insufficient for a considerable proportion of patients with complex mental disorders, i.e., patients with multiple or chronic mental disorders or personality disorders. Some studies suggest that long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (LTPP) may be helpful for these patients, according to background information in the article. LTPP is therapy in which emphasis is placed on more interpretive or supportive interventions, depending on the patient's needs, and that involves careful attention to the therapist-patient interaction.

Falk Leichsenring, D.Sc., of the University of Giessen, Germany, and Sven Rabung, Ph.D., of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany, conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effectiveness of LTPP (lasting for at least a year, or 50 sessions) and whether it is superior to shorter psychotherapeutic treatments for complex mental disorders, including personality disorders, chronic mental disorders (defined as lasting at least a year) and multiple mental disorders. The researchers identified and included 23 studies for the meta-analysis (11 randomized controlled trials and 12 observational studies), involving a total of 1,053 patients receiving LTPP.

The authors found: "In this meta-analysis, LTPP was significantly superior to shorter-term methods of psychotherapy with regard to overall outcome, target problems, and personality functioning. Long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy yielded large and stable effect sizes in the treatment of patients with personality disorders, multiple mental disorders, and chronic mental disorders. The effect sizes for overall outcome increased significantly between end of therapy and follow-up."

With regard to overall effectiveness, analysis indicated that after treatment with LTPP patients with complex mental disorders on average were better off than 96 percent of the patients in the comparison groups.

The authors add that further research should evaluate the cost-effectiveness of LTPP.

(JAMA. 2008;300[13]:1551-1565. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org)


Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Editorial: Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Research Evidence

In an accompanying editorial, Richard M. Glass, M.D., Deputy Editor, JAMA, and with the University of Chicago, comments on the findings regarding LTPP.

"... the meta-analysis by Leichsenring and Rabung in this issue of JAMA provides evidence about the effectiveness of long-term dynamic psychotherapy for patients with complex mental disorders who often do not respond adequately to short-term interventions. It is ironic and disturbing that this occurs at a time when provision of psychotherapy by psychiatrists in the United States is declining significantly. The reasons for this merit careful evaluation. To some extent this may reflect the cost-efficacy of treatments for some mental disorders with medications and brief supportive visits. However, this trend appears to be strongly related to financial incentives and other pressures to minimize costs. Is that what is really wanted for patients with disabling disorders that could respond to more intensive treatment?"

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(JAMA. 2008;300[13]:1587-1589. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org)

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

For More Information: Contact the JAMA/Archives Media Relations Department at 312-464-JAMA or email: mediarelations@jama-archives.org.

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