Psychotherapy Effective For Complex Mental Illness
> 10/8/2008 5:21:23 PM


Psychotherapy has served as the source of many in-jokes and inspired at least one critically acclaimed television series (not to mention much of Woody Allen’s early career), but academic studies on its efficiency remain relatively scarce and the number of individuals visiting therapists on a regular basis continues to decline. That lack of related research makes this recent JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) meta-analysis more significant for finally reporting that long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy (LTPP) is demonstrably more effective than short-term treatment for many individuals suffering from ongoing conditions like chronic anxiety, depression, anorexia and various personality disorders.   

German researchers compiled and examined the results of 23 independent international studies, 11 of which were randomized trials and 12 of which were observational in nature. The studies involved a total of more than 1,000 subjects who received psychotherapeutic treatment courses at least 50 sessions or one year in length. In order to clarify their conclusions the researchers considered only those studies in which participants suffered from complex mental disorders, visited their therapists at least once a week and underwent very close observation in which their improvement was graded on pre-defined terms. The most significant conclusion that the researchers drew from their data pool: an astounding 96 percent of LTPP participants showed greater symptomatic improvement than their counterparts in the short-term therapy group.  

The major logical conclusion to be drawn from this finding is that the state of emotional unbalance common to those suffering from long-term mental illness demands very close attention and a source of personal support like that gained from psychotherapy. Many of those diagnosed with conditions like addiction, suicidal ideation and anti-social personality disorder suffer from the same sense of personal fragility and draw very noticeable benefits from extended psychoanalytic supervision. 

This report is, amazingly, the first of its kind to appear in a major medical journal. The most important variable not included in its conclusions is cost-effectiveness. Long-term psychotherapy is obviously expensive, and many of the severe cases who need it most reside on the lowest levels of the economic scale. This issue needs to be explored by extended research, but it makes the effects of the Mental Health Parity Act even more important to the subjects who need treatment. Even partial insurance coverage for long-term psychotherapy could be a godsend to those affected by chronic conditions. In light of this crucial legislation, the academic veil surrounding psychotherapy should also disappear. Ongoing research will almost certainly serve to further highlight the many benefits it brings to those with complex mental illnesses.

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