Psychodynamic psychotherapy is associated with sustained reduction in health care utilization and cost

Clin Psychol Psychother. 2021 May;28(3):642-655. doi: 10.1002/cpp.2527. Epub 2020 Nov 12.


Our objective was to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of psychodynamic psychotherapy on the reduction in health care utilization and cost while controlling for age, gender, and year. Health care utilization and cost were examined yearly in 1,675 patients from 2 years before outpatient psychotherapy (i.e., baseline) to three consecutive years after psychotherapy in a naturalistic longitudinal design. A multilevel analytic approach (LMLM) was applied to account for repeated measures effect and missing data. In the year prior to psychotherapy, there was a significant increase in total cost compared with baseline (14.8%) and in use of health care services (primary and specialist doctors' visits and outsourced referrals). In the first year following therapy, there was a significant decrease in total cost (10%) and in use of health care services (all doctors' visits, imaging, and outsourced referrals). The decrease was to baseline levels or lower and was maintained for two additional years. Psychiatric medication usage increased significantly after psychotherapy and remained so. The overall cumulative decrease in total cost per patient over 3 years after therapy was 3,665.92 NIS, equalling a 69% average cost of psychotherapy. Further cost saving can be expected due to the reduction in sick leave, disability, and psychiatric hospitalization. These findings support the notion that providing outpatient psychodynamic psychotherapy can be financially beneficial to health care systems, although further research is required for causal inferences. Also, an increase in health care utilization along with scarce physical findings may indicate unaddressed psychological distress and warrant referral for mental assessment and possible psychotherapy.

Keywords: economic benefits; health care utilization; outcome study; psychodynamic psychotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic*
  • Sick Leave