"Take a sad song and make it better": What makes an interpretation growth facilitating for the patient?

Liat Leibovich, Paul L. Wachtel, Aviv Nof, Sigal Zilcha-Mano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interpretations are considered to be an important active ingredient in psychodynamic treatment. Research shows mixed results regarding the empirical utility of interpretations, and continuing efforts are needed to investigate what makes interpretations helpful and effective. Our aim was to examine what allows an interpretation to facilitate growth, promoting the flourishing of the patient. We developed a coding system for evaluating the growth-facilitating elements of interpretation (GFI). The GFI is based on 3 scales: the optimal context for implementing the interpretation, the extent to which the interpretation includes positive regard and collaboration, and instills hope, and the immediate results of the interpretation. The GFI was used in a case study of a patient receiving supportive-expressive psychotherapy for depression. Analyses examined between-sessions and within-session processes. The integration of findings from the between-sessions and within-session analyses suggests that growth-facilitating techniques, manifest in growing positive regard, collaboration, and instilling hope, resulted in better outcomes, as reflected in the patient's new associations, mood, and self-esteem, as well as in alliance, attachment to the therapist, and reduction of depressive symptoms. The present study demonstrates the benefits of integrating the psychodynamic perspective with that of positive psychology, for building interpretations that facilitate hope, growth, and flourishing. The GFI shows promise both for psychotherapy research and clinical practice and helps bridge the gap between the two.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-413
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association.


  • Growth-facilitating interpretation
  • Interpretation
  • Psychodynamic treatment
  • Supportive-expressive therapy
  • Therapeutic alliance
  • Object Attachment
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic/methods
  • Depressive Disorder, Major/therapy
  • Young Adult
  • Quality of Life
  • Adult
  • Female

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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