Abbass, A., et al. (2021). “Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for functional somatic disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of within-treatment effects.” J Psychosom Res 145: 110473.

OBJECTIVE: A recent meta-analysis of 17 randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) showed that Short-term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (STPP) for functional somatic disorders (FSD) reduced somatic symptoms compared to wait list, minimal treatment, and treatment-as-usual controls. A clinically important yet unanswered question is how much improvement patients experience within STPP treatment. METHODS: Following a systematic search, we identified STPP trials presenting data at baseline and post-treatment/follow-up. Meta-analyses determined the magnitude of changes in somatic symptoms and other outcomes from before to after STPP, and analyses examined effect sizes as a function of study, therapy, and patient variables. RESULTS: We identified 37 trials (22 pre-post studies and 15 RCTs) totaling 2094 patients treated an average of 13.34 sessions for a range of FSD. Across all studies, somatic symptoms improved significantly from pre-treatment to short-term follow-up with a large effect size (SMD = -1.07), which was maintained at long-term follow-up (SMD = -0.90). After excluding two outlier studies, effects at short- and medium-term follow-up remained significant but were somewhat reduced in magnitude (e.g., short-term SMD = -0.73). Secondary outcomes including anxiety, depression, disability, and interpersonal problems had medium to large effects. Effects were larger for studies of STPP that were longer than 12 sessions or used an emotion-focused type of STPP, and for chronic pain or gastrointestinal conditions than for functional neurological disorders. CONCLUSIONS: STPP results in moderate to large improvements in multiple outcome domains that are sustained in long-term follow-up. STPP is an effective treatment option for FSD and should be included in treatment guidelines.