Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy
to reduce rates of emergency department return
visits for patients with medically unexplained
symptoms: preliminary evidence from a pre�post
intervention study

QEII-AA-Dynamic Psychotherapy Reduces Return

Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre (ED)

Objective: Somatization of emotions accounts for excess emergency department (ED) visits in the form of medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy (ISTDP) has been used to diagnose and manage somatization. We examined the effectiveness of this procedure for ED patients with MUS. 


Methods: We implemented a service that included staff education, timely access to consultation and gathering of outcome data. Results: Patients were assessed and treated shortly after referral. There was a mean reduction of 3.2 (69.0%) ED visits per patient (standard deviation [SD] 6.4) the year afterward (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3-5.0, p < 0.001). In comparison revisit rates during the same time interval for 3 available ED populations (i.e., those matched by visit rates, those with matching complaints and Conclusion: This emotion-focused assessment and treatment method appeared to be feasible and may be effective in reducing both symptoms and repeat ED use.


Authors: Allan Abbass, Samuel Campbell, Kirk Magee, Robert Tarzwell

Allan Abbass - allan.abbass@dal.ca

Preliminary data gathering/ baseline