Short-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Functional Somatic Disorders: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Allan Abbass, Joel Town, Hannah Holmes, Patrick Luyten, Angela Cooper, Leo Russell, Mark A. Lumley, Howard Schubiner, Jenny Allinson, Denise Bernier, Celine De Meulemeester, Kurt Kroenke, Steve Kisely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Functionalsomatic disorders (FSD) are common and costly, thereby driving the need for the development of effective brief treatment options. Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) is one candidate treatment method. Objective: To review and meta-analyze, where possible, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of STPP for FSD. Methods: Following a systematic search of the literature, we performed a meta-analysis of available RCT groups to determine the effects of STPP on a range of outcomes after treatment, and medium- and long-term follow-ups. Results: In meta-analyses of 17 RCTs, STPP significantly outperformed minimal treatment, treatment as usual, or waiting list controls on somatic symptom measures at all time frames, with small to large magnitude effect sizes. Descriptive reviews of 5 RCTs suggest that STPP performed at least as well as other bona fide psychological therapies. Limitations of this meta-analysis include small samples of studies and possible publication bias. Conclusions: STPP is a valid treatment option for diverse FSD conditions resulting in somatic symptom reductions that persist over time. STPP should be included in FSD treatment guidelines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-370
Number of pages8
JournalPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Alexithymia
  • Emotion
  • Functional somatic disorders
  • Medically unexplained symptoms
  • Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Somatic symptom disorders
  • Somatization
  • Somatoform disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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