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Short-Term Psychoanalytic Supportive Psychotherapy for Depressed Patients

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Short-Term Psychoanalytic Supportive Psychotherapy (SPSP) is a face-to-face, individual psychotherapy, consisting of sixteen sessions in six months (first eight weekly, then eight fortnightly sessions). It is rooted in psychoanalytic theory. Its primary aim is to cure depression. A secondary goal is to reduce a patient's vulnerability to depression. The emphasis is on supportive techniques that counter regression and foster psychological growth. The putative process consists in experiencing a relational dissonance, i.e., feeling two contradictory relationships in the therapeutic situation simultaneously, one determined by the past, the other by the present. We assume an important curative factor is to experience, mostly unconsciously, an adequate gratification of developmental needs inadequately met in early infancy and, therefore, manifesting themselves in the archaic aspects of the therapeutic relationship. SPSP unfolds as a discourse in which we distinguish nine levels. Each regards a specific subject, which at that level is the focus of the interaction between patient and therapist. The efficacy of SPSP in ambulatory patients presenting a DSM-IV defined, mild to moderate major depressive disorder has been tested in five randomized clinical trials. The results have been aggregated in a mega-analysis. They suggest that, in the treatment of outpatients with mild to moderate major depressive disorder, SPSP and pharmacotherapy are equally efficacious and that the combination of SPSP and pharmacotherapy is more efficacious than pharmacotherapy alone but not than SPSP alone. We, therefore, consider SPSP a valuable extension to the existing options for the treatment of depressed patients.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2013

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