The efficacy of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for depression: a meta-analysis

Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 Feb;30(1):25-36. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.08.010.


Objectives: It remains largely unclear, firstly whether short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) is an effective treatment for depression, and secondly, which study, participant, or intervention characteristics may moderate treatment effects. The purpose of this study is to assess the efficacy of STPP for depression and to identify treatment moderators.

Results: After a thorough literature search, 23 studies totaling 1365 subjects were included. STPP was found to be significantly more effective than control conditions at post-treatment (d=0.69). STPP pre-treatment to post-treatment changes in depression level were large (d=1.34), and these changes were maintained until 1-year follow-up. Compared to other psychotherapies, a small but significant effect size (d=-0.30) was found, indicating the superiority of other treatments immediately post-treatment, but no significant differences were found at 3-month (d=-0.05) and 12-month (d=-0.29) follow-up. Studies employing STPP in groups (d=0.83) found significantly lower pre-treatment to post-treatment effect sizes than studies using an individual format (d=1.48). Supportive and expressive STPP modes were found to be equally efficacious (d=1.36 and d=1.30, respectively).

Conclusion: We found clear indications that STPP is effective in the treatment of depression in adults. Although more high-quality RCTs are necessary to assess the efficacy of the STPP variants, the current findings add to the evidence-base of STPP for depression.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Depression / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome