German Study Finds Long Term Psychodynamic Therapy Superior

It’s no secret that a lot of modern insurance companies harbor a preference for what they view as the most cost-effective measures when it comes to addressing emotional well-being and health in general. In relation to therapy, this attitude has often lead to a hasty endorsement of short-term therapies, especially in conjunction with various medicines. But Falk Leichsenring, a professor of Psychotherapy Research at the University of Giessen in Germany, has long suspected that this hasty endorsement is a departure from understanding which types of therapy are most effective.

Based on the extensive review of a collection of twenty three in-depth studies involving over a thousand participants, Leichsenring set out to pinpoint the therapies that clients found most beneficial, and with which therapists themselves were most satisfied. What he found was that while short term therapies usually had some degree of impact on the lives and prosperity of clients, in-depth courses of therapy involving psychodynamic elements and techniques were responsible for greater rates of achievement. Over the course of several months or even a few years, long term therapy embracing the person as a whole and taking the time to look at their backgrounds, memories, relationships, and personal observations is capable of serving as the foundation for profound change, the study suggests, while less involved treatments can fail to address deep-rooted feelings and ideas.

Leichsenring’s work, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in the fall, goes a long way toward helping the mental health professions underscore the importance of effective and meaningful technique in the face of insurance plans and common myths tied to the false superiority of short-term therapy. As more professionals open their work to the principles of psychodynamic care, the great ability and potential of this method may experience a rightful rise.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Hannah Nichols

    Hannah Nichols

    June 15th, 2009 at 8:17 AM

    Well thanks goodness for some unbiased research…!!!

  • Michele


    June 16th, 2009 at 1:56 AM

    Always glad to hear of more studies to ensure the well being of people and therapy. It’s a good idea to really get to really know the client to get to that underlying problem

  • Zoe


    June 16th, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    Short term i think is just as good as long term. If you need therapy and help any therapy will be better than none

  • Maggie


    June 16th, 2009 at 3:02 PM

    Why should this be a surprise to anyone? It only makes the most sense that the more a therapist gets to know a patient and the longer a patient is with a specific therapist then the quality of care will be better. If I see someone once then they will have very little of an idea about my real problems or needs and I will feel less inclined to share with them. However the more of a relationship that I am allowed to develop with him or her the more apt I am to share what is going on and I think that then they will have a better idea of what ways are best going to help me. I do agree in some ways that some therapy is better than none and that perhaps long term is not for everyone. But I know that in my experience I want to really get to know someone and feel that he or she knows me to have the best medical connection possible.

  • Faye


    June 18th, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    When someone has the chance to get to know you that is the only real way that anything can get resolved.

  • Leon DiBiasio

    Leon DiBiasio

    June 19th, 2009 at 7:02 AM

    Before I would accept Professor Leichsenring’s conclusions, I would have to study his source studies to decipher any multicultural issues involved. I am not of the opinion that one can make blanket statements regarding any form of psychotherapy. Unfortunately, people live in their own worlds and are part of their particular cultures. Although I would like to think that one therapy is superior, I would say that it might be superior only within the context of the society within which it was born and continues to thrive. Not all people are introspective and prone to insight, but all people must survive within their own worlds, countries, cultures, and families.

  • Susann


    June 20th, 2009 at 11:50 AM

    Sounds like another insurance scam to me when they just want you to go in and get those quick fix therapies. What good is several days of talking when you may need to undo a lifetime of screwups and life issues? The longer someone is able to remain in therapy the better the outcome surely has to be!

  • James


    June 22nd, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    I have been through the gamut of several different types of therapy and I know that long term talk therapy is what has helped me the most over the long haul. Yes my medications have helped me with anxiety and sleeping, but what helps me the most is just having someone that I feel comfortable with to share my problems with and who can help me just to has it all out. I was one of those who was not a big believer in talk therapy in the beginning. It seemed weird to me to be telling a perfect stranger all of the messes I had going on. But then I realized this was exactly what I needed. This was a person who did not judge me or really have a biased opinion- he just wanted to hear what was going on and give me input on ways that he thought I could work on making things a little more bearable and a little better. With that he has succeeded. This has been a long process, but it is working and I am not planning to give this up anytime soon!

  • Rhonda


    June 22nd, 2009 at 2:31 PM

    Good point, Susann. long term to me sounds more reasonable.

  • summer


    June 23rd, 2009 at 1:53 AM

    Just talking to someone and getting suggestions has always made me feel better and done the trick

  • Madeleine


    June 24th, 2009 at 6:50 AM

    I really do not see how anyone could make the argument that this research is skewed. How could long term care not be better than short interludes? This allows everyone that breathing time to get to know each other and to make real headway in resolving issues from the past. From my vantage point there is nothing wrong with that.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on