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Which patients benefit specifically from short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) for depression? Study protocol of a systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data
  1. Ellen Driessen1,
  2. Allan A Abbass2,
  3. Jacques P Barber3,
  4. Mary Beth Connolly Gibbons4,
  5. Jack J M Dekker5,
  6. Marjolein Fokkema6,
  7. Peter Fonagy7,
  8. Steven D Hollon8,
  9. Elise P Jansma9,
  10. Saskia C M de Maat10,
  11. Joel M Town2,
  12. Jos W R Twisk11,12,
  13. Henricus L Van10,
  14. Erica Weitz1,
  15. Pim Cuijpers1
  1. 1 Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health research institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  2. 2 Centre for Emotions & Health, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  3. 3 Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, USA
  4. 4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  5. 5 Department of Research, Arkin Mental Health Care, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  6. 6 Department of Methodology and Statistics, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
  7. 7 Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, UK
  8. 8 Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  9. 9 University Library, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  10. 10 Dutch Psychoanalytic Institute, Arkin Mental Health Care, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  11. 11 Department of Health Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  12. 12 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ellen Driessen; e.driessen{at}


Introduction Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) is an empirically supported treatment that is often used to treat depression. However, it is largely unclear if certain subgroups of depressed patients can benefit specifically from this treatment method. We describe the protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data (IPD) aimed at identifying predictors and moderators of STPP for depression efficacy.

Method and analysis We will conduct a systematic literature search in multiple bibliographic databases (PubMed, PsycINFO,, Web of Science and Cochrane’s Central Register of Controlled Trials), ‘grey literature’ databases (GLIN and UMI ProQuest) and a prospective trial register ( We will include studies reporting (a) outcomes on standardised measures of (b) depressed (c) adult patients (d) receiving STPP. We will next invite the authors of these studies to share the participant-level data of their trials and combine these data to conduct IPD meta-analyses. The primary outcome for this study is post-treatment efficacy as assessed by a continuous depression measure. Potential predictors and moderators include all sociodemographic variables, clinical variables and psychological patient characteristics that are measured before the start of treatment and are assessed consistently across studies. One-stage IPD meta-analyses will be conducted using mixed-effects models.

Ethics and dissemination Institutional review board approval is not required for this study. We intend to submit reports of the outcomes of this study for publication to international peer-reviewed journals in the fields of psychiatry or clinical psychology. We also intend to present the outcomes at international scientific conferences aimed at psychotherapy researchers and clinicians. The findings of this study can have important clinical implications, as they can inform expectations of STPP efficacy for individual patients, and help to make an informed choice concerning the best treatment option for a given patient.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42017056029.

  • depression
  • short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • predictors
  • moderators
  • individual participant data meta-analysis.

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  • Contributors ED, AAA, JPB, JJMD, MF, SDH, EPJ, SCMdM, JMT, JWRT, HLV, EW and PC made substantial contributions to the study design. ED, AAA, JPB, MBCG, JJMD, PF, SDH, JMT, HLV and PC made substantial contributions to the acquisition of individual participant data. ED, EW and PC drafted the manuscript. ED, AAA, JPB, MBCG, JJMD, MF, PF, SDH, EPJ, SCMdM, JMT, JWRT, HLV, EW and PC revised it critically for important intellectual content and approved the final version of this manuscript. ED is the guarantor of the review.

  • Funding An American Psychoanalytic Association Research Fund supported this work.

  • Disclaimer The funder had no role in the development of this study protocol, nor was there editorial direction or censorship from the sponsor in this manuscript.

  • Competing interests AAA practices and provides training in methods of STPP and receives royalties from a book he wrote on STPP. JPB has given talks on STPP at workshops and conferences for which organisers often have not paid for travel and accommodations. JPB and JJMD receive royalties from books on STPP they have coauthored. JMT has given talks on STPP at workshops and conferences for which organisers have paid for travel and accommodations. PF declares being Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre (UK). He teaches mentalisation-based treatment trainings and dynamic-interpersonal therapy trainings in the UK and internationally. He is the Co-PI on The IMPACT Study – The Effectiveness of Psychological Treatment for Depressed Adolescents, and Consultant to the Child and Family Program at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA. PF also receives royalties from books on interpersonal psychotherapy which he has coauthored with others. HLV and SCMdM are trainers and registered supervisors of short-term psychodynamic supportive psychotherapy. They also receive royalties from books on STPP they have coauthored. SDH reports no financial conflicts, but acknowledges an intellectual passion for the cognitive and behavioural interventions for depression. ED, MBCG, MF, JWRT, EW and PC declare that they have no known conflicts of interest

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.