CBT and Psychodynamic Therapy: Pros and Cons

Clinical research generally supports the efficacy of both CBT and psychodynamic therapy. Deciding which one is better for you depends to varying extents on:
  • Which approach appeals to you
  • Finding a “good fit” with a competent therapist (of either orientation)
  • Your reasons for seeking therapy, your level of commitment, and your financial resources
While it is collaborative, CBT fosters a more independent effort on the part of the client. As such, it involves less reliance on the therapist than psychodynamic therapy. Some people prefer this. Many people cannot afford or don’t want to go to ongoing therapy (six months or longer) and prefer to try to use the more directive skills learned in a time-limited (e.g., 12-16 weeks) CBT treatment on their own. CBT is particularly good for recent onset and relatively circumscribed issues or specific goals.

While some people find CBT helpful, others dislike it, feeling they are being talked out of their emotions. Some find that CBT’s focus on positive thinking feels too superficial to them, minimizing the importance of their personal history. Others find they don’t like the way CBT downplays emotions while seemingly overemphasizing the logical and thought-oriented components of one's mental life. Still others find they don’t get the results they desire with CBT and find that while psychodynamic therapy is more of an investment, it is more effective for them.

PROS of Psychodynamic Therapy
Those who find psychodynamic therapy a good fit tend to swear by it. It attempts to address the root causes of psychological issues compared to CBT. As such, the benefits are thought to be broader-based and longer lasting. Psychodynamic therapy is particularly good for more general distress, psychosomatic conditions, and personality patterns or tendencies such as repeated difficulties in one’s work or relationships.

CONS of Psychodynamic Therapy
While psychodynamic therapy can be brief, it does tend to take more time than CBT. Some people don’t find psychodynamic therapy to be a good fit. They may find it difficult to accept that factors outside of their awareness influence their thoughts and behaviors. Others are reluctant to think about their childhood or the relationship that develops with their therapist. Psychodynamic therapy is less structured than CBT and some prefer the more focused and directive approach of CBT.

here for a Summary Comparison of the features of CBT vs psychodynamic therapy.