A Truce in the Therapy Wars? CBT and Psychodynamic Therapy Found Equally Effective

A comprehensive study disrupts the 'therapy wars,' demonstrating that psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral therapies offer similar outcomes in depression treatment.


The latest research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology could be a game-changer in the therapy wars, a term coined to describe the ongoing debate over the superiority of different psychotherapy methods. Smith and Hewitt’s study, “The Equivalence of Psychodynamic Therapy (PDT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Depressive Disorders in Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review,” reveals that when it comes to treating depression, PDT and CBT may be more alike in their effectiveness than previously thought.

Through rigorous meta-analytic review and equivalence testing, this study addresses previous limitations in research comparing these two therapies. Notably, their findings indicate that immediately post-treatment, depressive symptoms showed no significant difference between manualized PDT and CBT, suggesting an equivalence in their efficacy. However, the study also highlights that more data is needed to determine if this equivalence holds over longer follow-up periods.

“We extended the ever-accumulating evidence base in support of the efficacy of PDT for depressive disorders by showing that there is no clinically meaningful difference in depressive symptoms immediately at post-treatment,” Smith and Hewitt write.
“Hence, from a clinical standpoint, our results underscore the importance of considering patient preference and situational factors when choosing between PDT and CBT for depressive disorders.”

This research brings a fresh perspective to the therapy wars, suggesting that the debate over therapy modalities might benefit from focusing less on which is superior and more on how each can effectively address the nuances of depressive disorders.

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