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Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for somatic disorders

Author(s): Abbass A, Kisely S, Kroenke K

Abstract

Background: Somatic symptom disorders are common, disabling and costly. Individually provided short-term psychodynamic psychotherapies (STPP) have shown promising results. However, the effectiveness of STPP for somatic symptom disorders has not been reviewed. Methods: We undertook a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and controlled before and after studies. The outcomes included psychological symptoms, physical symptoms, social-occupational function, healthcare utilization and treatment continuation. Results: A total of 23 studies met the inclusion criteria and covered a broad range of somatic disorders. Thirteen were RCTs and 10 were case series with pre-post outcome assessment. Of the included studies, 21/23 (91.3%), 11/12 (91.6%), 16/19 (76.2%) and 7/9 (77.8%) reported significant or possible effects on physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, social-occupational function and healthcare utilization respectively. Meta-analysis was possible for 14 studies and revealed significant effects on physical symptoms, psychiatric symptoms and social adjustment which were maintained in long-term follow-up. Random-effect modeling attenuated some of these relationships. There was a 54% greater treatment retention in the STPP group versus controls. Conclusion: STPP may be effective for a range of medical and physical conditions underscoring the role of patients’ emotional adjustment in overall health. Future research should include high-quality randomized and clinical effectiveness studies with attention to healthcare use and costs.

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