Psychodynamic psychotherapy for children and adolescents: a meta-analysis of short-term psychodynamic models

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013 Aug;52(8):863-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.05.014.


Objective: Psychodynamically based brief psychotherapy is frequently used in clinical practice for a range of common mental disorders in children and adolescents. To our knowledge, there have been no meta-analyses to evaluate the effectiveness of these therapies.

Method: After a broad search, we meta-analyzed controlled outcome studies of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapies (STPP, 40 or fewer sessions). We also performed sensitivity analyses and evaluated the risk of bias in this body of studies.

Results: We found 11 studies with a total of 655 patients covering a broad range of conditions including depression, anxiety disorders, anorexia nervosa, and borderline personality disorder. STPP did not separate from what were mostly robust treatment comparators, but there were some subgroup differences. Robust (g = 1.07, 95% CI = 0.80-1.34) within group effect sizes were observed suggesting the treatment may be effective. These effects increased in follow up compared to post treatment (overall, g = 0.24, 95% CI = 0.00-0.48), suggesting a tendency toward increased gains. Heterogeneity was high across most analyses, suggesting that these data need be interpreted with caution.

Conclusion: This review suggests that STPP may be effective in children and adolescents across a range of common mental disorders.

Keywords: anxiety; child; depression; psychodynamic; psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / standards*
  • Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic / standards*
  • Treatment Outcome*