Can Psychotherapy Help With Depression?

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy as a Treatment for Depression

Depression is a common and yet complex disorder. Clinical experience has shown that it can be a lifelong relapsing condition rather than a one-off illness. The distressing symptoms of depression as an illness have a quality about them which is familiar to everyone. In this way the emotional burden of feelings of sadness, disappointed hopes and the mental pains of grief and guilt are part of the personal struggle with the universal challenges of life. Put simply struggles with depression are part of what it is to be human

The psychodynamic explanation of depression is that it has its roots and origins in infancy and childhood experiences. According to this understanding the unique make up and early experiences of an individual can lead to vulnerability which, in interaction with life events, can culminate in adult depression.

For many years the first line of medical treatment has been that of medication. Yet surveys have shown that patients are becoming more and more interested in talking treatments as well. Certainly the personal experience of depression as described above is central to the condition. Psychodynamic psychotherapy, in the way it engages with the client, reflects on the problems encountered in living and relating. It is these which are often the focal point of concern for many clients.

Evaluation of the outcome of treatment

The therapeutic alliance, broadly defined as the collaborative bond between the therapist and client, is widely considered to be an essential ingredient in the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Substantial literature attests to the fundamental role played by this alliance in psychodynamic psychotherapy.

There is evidence from longitudinal studies to confirm psychotherapists’ clinical impression that improvement of patients may continue long after psychodynamic psychotherapy ends. This study demonstrated clients gaining in strength and capacity in finding various ways of managing their thoughts and feelings long after treatment had ended.

Having said this it still remains true that there is a need for continued research into the efficacy of treatment and follow up of clients following psychotherapy.


Roth.A & Fonagy.P What Works for Whom
Elkin et al, The Role of the Therapeutic Alliance in Psychotherapy
Taylor D, Richardson P, The Psychoanalytic/psychodynamic Approach to Depressive Disorders

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Psychotherapy may be understood as healing of the mind.

It can be seen as a healing process by which a psychotherapist helps a client learn about the 'self' that he or she has perhaps been unconsciously and unsuspectingly concealing, primarily from himself or herself.

The process involves a confidential and mutually trusting relationship between the person and the therapist. It is an intimate relationship but not a social one.

In other words the therapist makes his or her mind available for the client to recover...

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