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Therapy Watch: Total Treatment

The benefits of psychoanalysis endure.

You may think you're in therapy just to get past your fear of spiders, but a recent study suggests that if your therapist practices psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the beneficial effects can be much more extensive. Many people tend to view psychoanalysis as ineffective (or at least consider its benefits unsupported by clinical evidence), but new data paint a very different picture.

Jonathan Shedler of the University of Colorado examined several meta-analytic studies (each of which itself drew its conclusions from a comparison of numerous studies), and found that not only did the psychoanalytic method (also called psychodynamic therapy) often yield greater symptom reduction than cognitive-behavioral therapy or medications, but patients continued to improve long after they stopped attending sessions.

"Other therapies target specific symptoms," Shedler says, "whereas psychodynamic therapy focuses on the whole person. Yet it alleviates symptoms just as effectively. It aims to accomplish much more because most of the time, emotional suffering is not an encapsulated 'disorder' but is woven into the fabric of the person's life."

By helping you understand what led you into therapy in the first place, psychodynamic practitioners give you the tools to keep improving your life—even after you leave the couch.

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