Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy


Category: Allied Health Options

What is it?

Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy supports the traumatised individual to confront the specific event and circumstances that follow and what they mean for his/her life and well-being. In doing so, the therapist works to help the individual re-establish a sense of purpose and meaning in life and hope for the future, in spite of the pain and loss experienced as a result of the trauma.

How does it work?

Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on the emotional conflicts caused by the traumatic event. Through the retelling of the traumatic event to a compassionate and non-judgemental therapist, the patient achieves a greater sense of self-esteem, develops effective ways of thinking and coping, and more successfully deals with the intense emotions that emerge during therapy. The therapist assists the patient to identify current life situations that set off traumatic memories and worsen PTSD symptoms.

Is it effective?

A case study demonstrated the effectiveness of brief psychodynamic psychotherapy in a patient who sought treatment following symptoms of PTSD. This study reported that this method is particularly effective for previously well-functioning individuals interested in pursuing a treatment that involves self-analysis and exploration of meanings. Another earlier study reported significantly lower trauma-related symptoms among PTSD patients as compared to patients who did not receive this type of support.

Very few studies have examined the effectiveness of brief psychodynamic psychotherapy, and as such more clinical trials are needed before any final conclusions can be drawn.

Are there any disadvantages?

This form of therapy is not well suited to chronic or complex PTSD where a longer term, comprehensive approach would be needed.

Where do you get it?

Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy can only be administered by a registered mental health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

The number of participants in the two studies mentioned above was small, limiting the wide application of the results. The diagnostic criteria used in the case study were not specified and the other study had participants diagnosed with PTSD based on the previous Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Version III (DSM-III).


Whilst there is some research to suggest that brief psychodynamic psychotherapy can work in some patients, there is not enough evidence to confidently say that it is effective for PTSD.

Key References

Brom, D, Kleber, RJ & Defares, PB 1989, ‘Brief Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 57, no. 5, pp. 607-612.

Krupnick, JL 2002, ‘Brief Psychodynamic treatment of PTSD’, Psychotherapy in Practice, vol. 58, no. 8, pp. 919-932.

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