Interpretation in short-term therapy: The role of level of patient functioning

Carol Tosone, Paul Crits-Christoph, Lester Luborsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is much theoretical and clinical literature on the role of interpretation in psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and brief dynamic psychotherapy, but little supporting research data. Using 112 audiotaped sessions from 38 patients in supportive-expressive time-limited treatment, the present study hypothesized that therapists would modify the object and temporal content and frequency of their interpretations in relation to the level of patient functioning. The results did not support this hypothesis. Therapists were not less active with more interpretations for higher functioning patients, nor were they more active with fewer interpretations for lower functioning patients. Therapists were more active and made more genetic interpretations with married patients, regardless of level of patient functioning. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for supportive-expressive psychodynamic therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-129
Number of pages17
JournalPsychoanalytic Social Work
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Brief psychotherapy
  • Interpretation
  • Level of patient functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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