Every once in a while I come across a tidbit relating to psychodynamic psychotherapy in popular mass media. More often than not there is a questioning or even critical attitude expressed toward psychodynamic work, and this negative commentary is usually paired with a positive comment about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Usually the recommendation is to go with CBT because it is helpful and has been proven to be so by research. As a professional whose work is strongly influenced by psychodynamic principals, I find these statements frustrating because they do not tell the whole story. Yes, a lot of research has proven that CBT can be helpful, however, psychodynamic psychotherapy has also been shown to be helpful. The fact is that not as much research has been conducted in the area of psychodynamic efficacy, and the research that has been conducted is not as widely known. However, that is now changing.
Two years ago Jonathan Shedler, a psychologist — who is Director of Psychology at the University of Colorado Hospital Outpatient Psychiatry Service and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine — reviewed research looking at the effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy. He was able to demonstrate that psychodynamic psychotherapy has been underestimated, and that many of the aspects of CBT that are considered helpful are directly taken from psychodynamic principals.
I recommend two articles by Jonathan Shedler:
The first one, “Getting to Know Me”, was published in Scientific American Mind in the fall of 2010 and is a little more accessible.
The second one, “The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy”, was published in The American Psychologist in early 2010. The American Psychologist is a publication of the American Psychological Association. This article is filled with more jargon and statistics, but for those of you who might want to dive a little deeper it offers a lot of good information.
Enjoy and let me know your thoughts.