The effectiveness of long-term psychoanalytic therapy: a systematic review of empirical studies

Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2009;17(1):1-23. doi: 10.1080/10673220902742476.


Background: There is a gap in the research literature on the effectiveness of long-term psychoanalytic therapies (LPT).

Aim: To present a systematic review of studies dealing with LPT effectiveness and published from 1970 onward.

Methods: A systematic literature search for studies dealing with the effectiveness of individual LPT in ambulatory, adult patients. Data about the overall effectiveness of LPT, its impact on symptom reduction, and its effect on personality changes were pooled both at treatment termination and at follow-up, using effect sizes (ESs) and success rates.

Results: We found 27 studies (n = 5063). Psychotherapy yielded large mean ESs (0.78 at termination; 0.94 at follow-up) and high mean overall success rates (64% at termination; 55% at follow-up) in moderate/mixed pathology. The mean ES was larger for symptom reduction (1.03) than for personality change (0.54). In severe pathology, the results were similar. Psychoanalysis achieved large mean ESs (0.87 at termination; 1.18 at follow-up) and high mean overall success rates (71% at termination; 54% at follow-up) in moderate pathology. The mean ES for symptom reduction was larger (1.38) than for personality change (0.76).

Conclusion: Our data suggest that LPT is effective treatment for a large range of pathologies, with moderate to large effects.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome