Interpretations are a hallmark of psychodynamic treatment and a method used in other theoretical orientations as well. Therapists use interpretations to increase patients’ insight concerning unconscious and preconscious elements in their lives, with the ultimate aim to reduce mental pain and suffering and improve mental health. This systematic review focuses on the association between the therapists’ use and accuracy of interpretation and immediate (within-session), intermediate (between-session), and distal (endoftreatment) outcomes. This synthesis of the research literature is based on 18 independent samples of 1,011 total patients in individual psychotherapy. The results suggest that the use and accuracy of interpretations were associated, in half the studies, with patient disclosure of emotions and increased insight at the immediate, moment-to-moment enfolding of the session. At the intermediate postsession outcome, the use of interpretations was associated with a stronger alliance and greater depth, in half the studies. At the end of treatment, however, while there is some evidence for a positive effect of the use of interpretations on treatment success, there are also neutral effects and even evidence that interpretations have the potential to be harmful in some particular situations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the American Psychoanalytic Association and from the Israel Science Foundation 395/19 to Sigal Zilcha-Mano
© 2023 American Psychological Association
- process-outcome research