Does therapy work?

One of the questions most often asked about therapy is whether it works. This is a complex issue, but on the available evidence, the answer is a resounding yes, provided that therapist and client are a good 'fit', and that the type of therapy is suitable to the client and his or her difficulties.

What type of therapy should I choose?

Therapies, like much else in society, go in and out of fashion. Currently, the therapy that appears to be getting the most attention is cognitive-behavioural therapy, or CBT. As the name suggests, it focuses on a patient's thoughts and behaviours, and has been shown to be effective in dealing with certain symptoms, such as phobias.

The latest evidence shows, however, that, for lasting change, the most effective therapy for many conditions, such as different forms of depression and anxiety, is psychoanalytic, and those therapies that are derived from psychoanalysis. As successive empirical studies have shown, the evidence demonstrates that not only do patients who choose psychoanalytic therapy improve during therapy, but also continue to improve after therapy has finished. Revealingly, research also shows that, when therapists choose therapy for themselves, they often opt to see a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic practitioner.

So why is psychoanalytic therapy so effective?

Rather than focus solely on the relief of symptoms, psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy aim to liberate the client across a broad range of emotions. They do this by helping patients understand how they relate to others, by facilitating their self-exploration and helping them recognise their emotional blind spots.

Psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic and psychodynamic psychotherapy have a strong and expanding evidence base, and there are now a number of outcome studies which have examined both their short and long-term efficacy. These demonstrate that, in many cases, psychoanalytic therapies are the most effective treatment for a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, panic and stress-related physical ailments. In contrast to many non-psychodynamic treatments, the benefits of therapy are also shown to increase after treatment ends. For more information, please see the evidence section of the BPC's website.

07948 497072
Send an email
39 Margaret Street, London W1G 0JQ