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Bias Against Psychodynamic Therapy: Current State, Impact, and Ways Forward

Editors note: This piece is part of a broader series on the efficacy of, bias against, and advocacy for psychodynamic treatments.
Austen Riggs Center clinical staff member Steven Ackerman, PhD, MBA, ABPP, speaks about the bias against psychodynamic approaches in therapy and research, the impacts of that bias, and he outlines several ways to combat the bias.
Key Points
  • The original guidelines for evidence-based and effective treatment (set up in the 1980s) were biased against psychodynamic psychotherapy. Nevertheless, more recent studies are demonstrating its efficacy.
  • Bias against psychodynamic psychotherapy influences what insurance will cover, impacts the creation of treatment guidelines, and ultimately reduces treatment choices for patients.
  • There is no scientific evidence to suggest that psychodynamic psychotherapy is less effective than other forms of therapy. In fact, there are hundreds of studies that support the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy.
  • Psychodynamic practitioners and researchers need to take a unified stance against bias and acknowledge that there is value in different forms of treatment for different types of patients.

The past, present, and future of psychodynamic research and practice

“We all have a common goal, and that common goal is to try to help people and reduce suffering.”

Differences between cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy (understanding that different kinds of therapies work for different people)

“Cognitive behavioral therapy does focus on looking at thoughts and behaviors in relation to patterns . . . a psychodynamic therapist might look at the history and context from which those behaviors and thoughts come from.”

The impact of bias against ANY kind of therapy, including psychodynamic therapy

“The impact of bias against any therapy is that it excludes opportunities for patients to have a range of choices.”

Ways to combat bias against psychodynamic therapy and research

“The evidence is clear: psychodynamic psychotherapy is as effective, if not better, than the other forms of therapy.”
For further reading, we suggest the Journal of Psychiatric Practice piece “Bias Toward Psychodynamic Therapy: Framing the Problem and Working Toward a Solution.” (Set to free access through 4/26/24.)
The tables below are featured in the above referenced piece and reproduced here with permission from the publisher: