Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Psychoanalysis Makes a Comeback

In case students haven't figured this out yet, I often try to dovetail topics into the various classes I teach so that I'm fluent in one topic at the same time, without having to jump around so much. This past week in Intro, Delinquency and Criminology, we've been discussing the medicalization of deviance, the growing use of psychotropic medications as a form of social control, and the psychiatric-industrial complex.

That's why I was heartened to see this NYT story this morning, announcing the "comeback" of good old fashioned "talk therapy" as an effective tool for behavioral problems.

Intensive psychoanalytic therapy, the “talking cure” rooted in the ideas of Freud, has all but disappeared in the age of drug treatments and managed care.

But now researchers are reporting that the therapy can be effective against some chronic mental problems, including anxiety and borderline personality disorder.

In a review of 23 studies of such treatment involving 1,053 patients, the researchers concluded that the therapy, given as often as three times a week, in many cases for more than a year, relieved symptoms of those problems significantly more than did some shorter-term therapies.

The authors, writing in Wednesday’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, strongly urged scientists to undertake more testing of psychodynamic therapy, as it is known, before it is lost altogether as a historical curiosity.

It's never made a lot of sense for persons seeking help for mental illnesses or disorders to be medicated without the requisite "talk therapy" to get at the root of the problem. Managed care is partly at fault for this, as most insurance companies will cover psychotropic medications but scoff at paying for talk therapies and months or even years of counseling.

But it's also a societal fault as well. We are a culture that values the quick fix (which drugs give us), preferring to address symptoms, without getting at the causes of our problems.

In that light, it's good news to see this research back up the value of talk therapies, whether in conjunction with medication or not.

No comments: