We wrote recently about the growing number of think pieces dedicated to “rediscovering” psychoanalysis and calling for its return to the mainstream. (Some of us maintained that it never went away, but no matter.) This recent piece in Forbes makes the case as well as any of them, pointing not just to the lasting and substantive benefits of analytic therapy, but also to its increasingly strong showing in a number of empirical analyses:
For example, a 2013 randomized control trial demonstrated the efficacy of psychoanalytic psychotherapy for treating panic disorder. A 2010 meta-analytic review of available outcome studies showed that “empirical evidence supports the efficacy” of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It further showed that the magnitude of change in psychoanalytic psychotherapy is “as large as those reported for other therapies that have been actively promoted as ‘empirically supported’ and ‘evidence based’.”
But the piece also identifies one of the key criticisms leveled at this kind of therapy, namely that its bespoke nature resists a one-size-fits-all training regime, or testing protocol:
Because psychoanalytic psychotherapy adapts technique to the unique individuality of each patient, it can seem to some like all art and no science. “Where’s the manual!” goes the cry. The fact is that psychoanalytic psychotherapists typically rely on research to guide the moment-to-moment decisions of a clinical encounter, especially infant development research and increasingly neuroscience. If CBT, as a way to illustrate, can be thought of as someone expertly playing sheet music, psychoanalytic psychotherapy is more like well-structured improvisational jazz.
Of course this isn’t a flaw, but the source of psychoanalysis’s prodigious strength—and the reason so many people of different beliefs and predilections find it singularly effective.