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

Clin Psychol Rev. 2015 Dec;42:1-15. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2015.07.004. Epub 2015 Aug 1.


Objectives: The efficacy of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) for depression is debated. Recently, a number of large-scale and high-quality studies have been conducted. We examined the efficacy of STPP by updating our 2010 meta-analysis.

Results: After a thorough literature search, 54 studies (33 randomized clinical trials) totaling 3946 subjects were included. STPP was significantly more effective than control conditions at post-treatment on depression, general psychopathology and quality of life measures (d=0.49 to 0.69). STPP pre-treatment to post-treatment changes (d=0.57 to 1.18) indicated significant improvements on all outcome measures, which either significantly improved further (d=0.20 to 1.04) or were maintained from post-treatment to follow-up. No significant differences were found between individual STPP and other psychotherapies at post-treatment (d=-0.14) and follow-up (d=-0.06) in analyses that were adequately powered to detect a clinically relevant difference. STPP was significantly more efficacious than other psychotherapies on anxiety measures at both post-treatment (d=0.35) and follow-up (d=0.76).

Conclusion: We found clear indications that STPP is effective in the treatment of depression in adults. Although more high-quality studies are needed, particularly to assess the efficacy of STPP compared to control conditions at follow-up and to antidepressants, these findings add to the evidence-base of STPP for depression.

Keywords: Depression; Efficacy; Meta-analysis; STPP; Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic / methods*