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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2012 Mar;35(1):111-29. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2012.01.001.

Psychodynamic treatment of depression.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Tiensestraat 102 PO Box 3722, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Findings reviewed in this article show that PT should be included in treatment guidelines for depression. BPT in particular has been found to be superior to control conditions, equally effective as other active psychological treatments, with treatment effects that are often maintained in the long run, conferring resistance to relapse. Moreover, BPT is as effective as pharmacotherapy in the acute treatment of mild to moderate depression, and, either as monotherapy or combined with medication, BPT is associated with better long-term outcome compared with pharmacotherapy alone. PT is accepted by many depressed patients as a viable and preferred treatment. Furthermore, LTPT and PA have shown promise in treating patients with complex psychological disorders characterized by mood problems, often with comorbid personality problems. Finally, although studies suggest that effects of PT may be achieved somewhat slower compared with other forms of psychotherapy as well as medication in the acute treatment of depression, LTPT appears to be more clinically effective and perhaps more cost effective in the long run, particularly for chronically depressed patients. As noted, these conclusions need to be interpreted within the context of important limitations. Compared with other treatments, the evidence base for PT in depression remains relatively small, despite a respectable research tradition supporting psychodynamic assumptions with regard to the causation of depression. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, although more studies now include longer follow-up assessments, our knowledge about the long-term effects of so-called evidence-based treatments of depression remains sketchy at best. In this context, the growing evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of LTPT is promising. Overall, it is clear that the future of the treatment of depression may lie in a combined disorder- and person-centered, tailored-made approach, which takes into account, particularly in chronic depression, the broader interpersonal context and life history of the individual. It is clear that psychodynamic therapies have an important role to play in this respect.

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