The evidence base

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy has a strong and expanding evidence base. There are many studies showing that short and long term psychotherapy are very effective, both generally and for specific conditions.

There is a consistent finding in the research of patients making considerable improvement, long after treatment has ended.

There is also evidence that non-psychoanalytic forms of therapy may be effective because of the inclusion of psychoanalytic techniques and process.

Some of the key findings from the research show that:

  • Psychoanalytic psychotherapy gives impressive results, which even improve at long-term follow up, suggesting that patients who receive psychoanalytic psychotherapy continue to benefit long after therapy has ended.
  • Longer-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy (one year’s treatment or more) is more effective than shorter forms of therapy for the treatment of complex mental disorders.
    Psychoanalytic psychotherapy has particularly promising findings in relation to helping people with personality disorder. Mentalization-based therapy (a form of psychoanalytic psychotherapy) has been shown to yield the most positive results for personality pathology.
  • A growing body of evidence suggests that psychoanalytic psychotherapy is effective for many common mental disorders, including depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance-related disorder.

Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy are essentially interchangeable terms and for the purposes of the research papers can be read as such.

Evidence and Research: external links

This list of external links showcases some of the research and evidence that has and is continuing to be done. We take no responsibility for content on external links.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families brings together leaders in neuroscience, mental health, social care and education to work together to improve understanding and practice.

Jonathan Shedler in the Scientific American: Getting to Know Me: What’s Behind Psychoanalysis. Psychodynamic therapy has been caricatured as navel-gazing, but studies show powerful benefits.

Tavistock and Portman Research and Innovation: building the evidence-base through collaborative and independent research.

The Single Case Archive compiles clinical, systematic and experimental single case studies in the field of psychotherapy.

UCL Psychoanalysis Unit: it’s mission is to break the mould of traditional approaches to psychoanalysis, taking inspiration from the discipline’s ideas to meet the challenges of the modern world.

Psychoanalytic Research Consortium article: What happens in a Psychoanalysis? A view through the lens of the analytic process scales.

Evidence base downloads

BPC The Centrality of Research
- (168 KB PDF)
The purpose of this document is firstly to note key areas in the contest around research in theanalytic field generally; secondly to affirm the centrality of research (including research on the evidence base) to the development of effective clinical work; and thirdly to outline some general principles of such a process of enquiry.
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Where and how to find useful research
- (104 KB PDF)
This guide is a short list of practical suggestions offered to the psychodynamic practitioner who, for the benefit of their patients and to further their own professional development, seeks to access and use research undertaken by others.
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Psychoanalytic psychotherapy: what’s the evidence?
- (373 KB PDF)
Psychoanalyticpsychotherapy has a strong and expanding evidence base. Therenow exists a large number of outcome studies which have alternately examined the efficacy ofshort-term and long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy and the efficacy of psychoanalyticpsychotherapy for specificconditions.
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Will psychodynamic psychotherapy work for my patient?
- (76 KB PDF)
A summary of two recent reviews of the evidence base for psychodynamic psychotherapy.
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E-Library of Key Papers and Book Chapters
- (360 KB PDF)
E-Library of Key Papers and Book Chapters relating to the evidence base for psychoanalytic psychotherapy
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Making sense of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis
- (135 KB PDF)
This booklet is an introduction to psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. It does not attempt to describe the numerous individual brands of psychotherapy, but looks at the main approaches and explains what the differences are, what you can expect from psychotherapy, and how to find a good therapist.
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Evidence in Support of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
- (407 KB PDF)
The document distils key evidence concerning the effectiveness of different types of psychodynamic psychotherapy .
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