North American pioneers of Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Malan’s important findings appear to have found greater interest and response amongst American psychoanalytic psychotherapists and psychiatrists than possibly amongst his own colleagues in the UK. The mid 20th century saw a particularly fruitful exposition of ideas and research into time-limited psychodynamic psychotherapy. These North American pioneers contributed a new dimension to the research and training process through their utilisation of the then novel audiovisual resources.

Peter Sifneos

Malan’s research was duplicated by Peter Sifneos (1992) at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s. Sifneos maintained that an active approach for both patient and therapist was essential to the success of time-limited psychodynamic psychotherapy. He coined the term ‘Anxiety Provoking Psychotherapy’ not in the sense of deliberately making the patient anxious, but in acknowledging the inevitable challenges of the psychotherapy process. For Sifneos, the willingness on the part of the patient to change, was a key selection criterion for considering which patients would be suitable for time-limited psychotherapy. A successful outcome in therapeutic terms would be reflected in the capacity of the patient to be able to ‘internalise’ the therapist; in other words to internalise a helpful person and process that can continue to be of use to the patient in the course of their life experience.

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