PhDork, if you don’t want me to link to this, let me know, and I will take it down. I figured that was more polite than reblogging.
I think that it’s important to understand that there are a number of different methods of talk therapy, that they are not all equally effective, and that some of them work better for some people than others. I can only give a quick overview of the 3 main types here (6am rounds tomorrow), but I can describe them in detail if anyone is interested.
Psychoanalytic therapy: What most people think of when they think of therapy. Couches and Freud and questions about you childhood. I actually know the least about this kind of therapy because it’s not really practiced by medical doctors (aka psychiatrists) anymore. Also, of note, it has never been demonstrated to be of benefit in controlled clinical trials.
Psychodynamic therapy: This is probably what the above poster is describing and is in some ways the modern descendant of psychoanalytic therapy. It is predicated on the theory that if the patient can understand the internal source of their negative thoughts and feelings then they will be better able to cope with them during daily life. It is frequently described as “insight-based.” It is about as effective as SSRI antidepressants in controlled clinical trials but the effects aren’t durable (do not persist after therapy has been discontinued). Therefore, it is usually conducted at low frequency (1-2x per month) for long periods of time (years).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Developed by Aaron Beck in the 1960’s and the first form of talk therapy to demonstrate benefit in controlled clinical trials. It is predicated on the theory that thoughts and feelings are behaviors just like any other and that they can be influenced consciously. It does not chase after sources these thoughts and feelings and instead focuses on developing mental techniques to recognize them and deal with them effectively. As a result, the sessions are highly interactive with the therapist doing much of the talking. It is also about as effective as SSRI antidepressants (and probably synergistic if used concurrently, though that study has not been published yet) and the effects have been found to be durable. For this reason, therapy sessions tend to be frequent (several times per week) and treatment is limited in duration (typically a month or two).
Again, sorry that this was so brief and simplistic. I can provide citations for anyone who is interested (or appropriately skeptical about scientific studies of qualitative patient experiences).