Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
Review Article

Efficacy and suitability of adding short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) to pharmacotherapy in patients with depressive disorders: a systematic review

Gabriele Di Salvo, Camilla Perotti, Valerio Ricci, Giuseppe Maina, Gianluca Rosso

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Recent guidelines on depressive disorders suggest a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy in case of moderate to severe symptomatology. While cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are the most investigated interventions, psychodynamic psychotherapies have been less explored.

The aim of this paper is to systematically review literature data on the efficacy of shortterm psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) in combination with antidepressants in the treatment of depressive disorders, focusing both on short and on long-term results and on potential moderators that could influence its effectiveness.

The systematic review was conducted using the PRISMA guidelines. Databases searched were PubMed, Ovid, Scopus, and Cochrane Library, from inception to August 2023.

Adding STPP to medications in the first six months of treatment didn’t influence remission rates, but improved acceptability, work adjustment, interpersonal relationships, social role functioning, hospitalization rates and cost-effectiveness. After 12 months, a significant difference in remission rates arised, favouring combined therapy. In a long-term perspective, adding STPP to pharmacotherapy reduced the recurrence rate by almost 50%. STPP has proven to be more effective in longer depressive episodes, in more severe depressions and in patients with a childhood abuse history. Instead, STPP had no impact on major depressive disorder with comorbid Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Combining STPP with antidepressants appeared to be helpful both in a short-term and in a long-term perspective. Still, there are few rigorous studies with large samples and further research is needed to identify which subgroups of patients may benefit more from STPP.


Psychotherapy, short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, antidepressants, depressive disorders

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