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Research shows long-term psychotherapy is better for complex mental disorders

October 1, 2008

It’s heartening that the knee-jerk question “Where’s the evidence?” has been answered by at least one serious study, but what is worrying is that the study also finds that psychotherapy is being increasingly shouldered out of the treatment mix by an increasing tendency to medicate.

Long-term psychotherapy is superior, study finds | Booster Shots | Los Angeles Times.

Psychotherapy lasting for at least one year is more effective than shorter periods of therapy for people with complex mental disorders, such as personality and chronic disorders, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. The success of dedicated psychotherapy may matter little, however, because fewer doctors are offering the service and fewer insurers are covering it.

In long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, the therapist provides continued, close support for the patient while the pair work through problems and interventions. The JAMA study, from researchers in Germany, was an examination of 23 studies on the success of psychotherapy. It found that longer-term therapy (one year or longer) was superior to shorter-term methods in regard to overall outcome and personality functioning. On average, patients with complex mental conditions who were treated long-term were better off than 96% of the patients in the comparison groups.

Psychotherapy, however, is a dying art. In an editorial accompanying the study, JAMA Deputy Editor Richard M. Glass, of the University of Chicago, noted that fewer patients these days have access to this kind of supportive therapy.

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