A meta-analytic review of psychodynamic therapies for anxiety disorders

Clin Psychol Rev. 2014 Jun;34(4):309-23. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2014.03.004. Epub 2014 Mar 24.


Recent randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest that psychodynamic therapy (PDT) may be useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders. This paper presents the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date examining the controlled effects of PDT for anxiety disorders. 14 RCTs totaling 1073 patients were included. PDT was found to be significantly more effective than control conditions (g=0.64). PDT did not differ significantly from alternative treatments at post-treatment (g=0.02), follow-up (FU) up to a year (g=-0.11), and FU past a year (g=-0.26). Medium-to-high levels of heterogeneity were detected, indicating significant differences between studies. Nevertheless, our findings remained unchanged when heterogeneity outliers were removed (termination g=-0.06/short FU g=-0.01/long FU g=-0.10). Power analyses indicated that large or medium effect size differences between PDT and other active treatments could be detected even with high heterogeneity. Exploratory moderator analyses found few significant predictors of effect (e.g., relative risk of dropout). No differences were found examining remission rates or relative risk of dropout. Overall, PDT was shown to be as efficacious as other active treatments that have been studied for anxiety disorders.

Keywords: Anxiety disorders; Meta-analysis; Psychodynamic therapy; Psychotherapy outcome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Patient Dropouts / psychology
  • Patient Dropouts / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome