The effectiveness of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy-A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Y. Smit, M.J.H. Huibers*, J.P.A. Ioannidis, R. van Dyck, W. Van Tilburg, A. Arntz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The effectiveness of psychoanalysis and long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy (LTPP) is debated. We evaluated the effectiveness of LTPP, compared to other treatments or no treatment, in patients with clearly defined metal disorders. We selected randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials on LTPP. Two authors independently identified trials for inclusion. Eleven trials were eligible. The risk difference for recovery (primary outcome) at the longest available follow-up was 0.00 (95% CI: - 0.17 to 0.17; p = 0.96; I-squared: 58%). The combined Hedges' g, at the longest follow-up for each study, were: for target problems: - 0.05 (95% CI - 0.55 to 0.46; p = 0.86; I-squared =88%); general psychiatric symptoms: 0.69 (95% CI - 0.19 to 1.57; p = 0.13; I-squared = 96%); personality pathology: 0.17 (95% CI: - 0.25 to 0.59; p = 0.42; I-squared = 41%); social functioning: 0.20 (95% CI - 0.10 to 0.50; p = 0.19; I-squared = 53%); overall effectiveness: 0.33 (95% CI - 0.31 to 0.96; p = 0.32; I-squared = 94%); and quality of life: - 0.37 (95% CI: - 0.78 to 0.04; p = 0.08; I-squared = 55%). A subgroup analysis of the domain target problem showed that LTPP did significantly better when compared to control treatments without a specialized psychotherapy component, but not when compared to various specialized psychotherapy control treatments. An exploratory meta-regression indicated that there might be a relation between the difference in treatment intensity between the intervention and control group (session ratio) and effect size. We came to conclude that the recovery rate of various mental disorders was equal after LTPP or various control treatments, including treatment as usual. The effect sizes of the individual trials varied substantially in direction and magnitude. In contrast to previous reviews, we found the evidence for the effectiveness of LTPP to be limited and at best conflicting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-92
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy
  • Meta-analysis
  • Psychoanalysis


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