Background There is emerging evidence for the effectiveness of psychodynamic psychotherapy for depressive disorders. However, we know less of how this relation-focused therapy mode is experienced and what the patients themselves identify as helpful. Hence, the purpose of this study is to explore adolescents’ experiences of factors promoting improvement in psychodynamic therapy. Methods Eight female patients participating in a Norwegian study on psychodynamic therapy, the First Experimental Study of Transference Work – In Teenagers (FEST-IT), were included. The participants were offered a total number of 28 sessions. Semi-structured qualitative interviews about experiences with therapy were then conducted and analysed with systematic text condensation and hermeneutic interpretation. Results The analysis revealed four main themes. ‘Exploring oneself’ comprises autonomy and acknowledgment, openness, insight and acceptance of oneself. ‘Therapist relation and characteristics’ includes confidence and trust in and support from the therapist as well as having a trustworthy and experienced therapist. ‘Focusing on everyday life’ includes learning and practical orientation. ‘Time factors’ refers to duration and frequency. Conclusions Together with a supportive and listening therapist, the adolescents improve by exploring themselves within the frames of a time-limited treatment period. Improvement seems to be experienced through better relations to oneself and to others and by finding one’s place in the family, or at school. Adolescents value problem solving and help with concrete challenges. Hence, therapy should be tailored to the needs of adolescents with depression and incorporate the challenges they face in their everyday life. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov . Id: NCT01531101. Date of registry: 8 February 2012, retrospectively registered.
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