Keefe, J.R., McCarthy, K.S., Dinger, U., Zilcha-Mano, S., Barber, J.P. (2014). A meta analytic review of psychodynamic therapies for anxiety disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2014.03.004.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions, with combined lifetime prevalence near 17%. Anxiety disorders have high rates of comorbidity with other Axis I and II psychiatric disorders, and are associated with substantial physical and mental health burden. Several well-established treatments for anxiety disorders exist, including cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT). However, not all patients with anxiety disorders benefit from current treatments, and there is some evidence that some aspects of CBT are not well tolerated leading to patient non-compliance with therapist directives. Hence, other treatment options such as psychodynamic therapies (PDTs). Should be tested for efficacy with patents with anxiety problems. PDTs have been studied and found to be efficacious for other types of disorders especially for depression. As Keefer and colleagues note, psychodynamic theory conceptualizes anxiety symptoms as originating from relational contexts that give rise to painful feelings (e.g., feelings of loss or abandonment, a wish to express anger or assert oneself). The patient engages in disavowal defenses against these intense, negative feelings and desires, and so avoids their experiences, and develops anxiety symptoms (e.g., panic attack triggered by experiences of loss or anger). Psychodynamic therapists encourage the patient to discuss the contexts in which their symptoms arise in order to understand the occurrence of symptoms. Therapists help the patient make connections between prior interpersonal and intrapsychic events that lead to negative feelings and anxiety-producing defenses. The goal is to allow the patient to try new ways of getting their needs met without anxiety while using more adaptive defenses. Exposure to feared or avoided situations during therapy sessions or in real life may also be encouraged by therapists. PDT may be less directive that CBT in treating anxiety disorders, and this may be useful for patients who do not respond well to directive interventions. Keefe and colleagues conducted a meta analysis of PDT for anxiety disorders and included 14 controlled studies of 1,037adults. Most of the treatments to which PDT was compared were CBT. PDT was significantly more effective than no treatment control conditions and the effect was medium. PDT did not differ significantly from alternative treatments like CBT at post-treatment, one year follow-up, and follow up beyond one year. Almost half of patients who received PDT were no longer symptomatic at post-treatment, and the drop out rate from PDT was 17%.
The findings of this meta analysis suggests that psychodynamic therapy (PDT) is effective in treating anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder and others. PDT was well tolerated by patients as the drop out rate was relatively low at 17%. PDT was as effective as CBT when the two treatments were compared to each other. PDT provides therapists and patients with a primary or alternative approach to treatment of anxiety disorders, and should be considered for those patients who do not respond well to the more highly directive nature of CBT.