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Panic-Focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (PFPP)

PFPP for the Treatment of Panic Disorder


Updated February 01, 2013

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Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that is marked with frequent fears and panic attacks. This condition can greatly impact one’s career, relationships, and overall quality of life. Fortunately, there is help available.

Psychotherapy is one of the most popular treatment options to help in overcoming the challenging symptoms of panic disorder. Panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy, or PFPP, is one type of psychotherapy that may be able to effectively treat panic attacks and agoraphobia. The following describes how PFPP is used for the treatment of panic disorder.

What is Panic-Focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy?

PFPP is a type of psychotherapy treatment that stems from psychoanalytic theory and concepts. PFPP is based on the idea that panic disorder develops in response to certain unconscious feelings, fantasies and conflicts.

PFPP also suggests that a person develops defenses to deal with difficult emotions. People with panic disorder are thought to be struggling with core conflicts around anger, autonomy and loss. Denial, reaction formation, and undoing are some of the common defense mechanisms explored during the treatment for panic disorder sufferers.

How IS PFPP Used to Treat Panic Disorder?

PFPP is different than other types of psychotherapy in that it is not used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Rather, it focuses specifically on the treatment of the symptoms of panic disorder and agoraphobia. PFPP is considered a brief therapy, meaning that it can help in alleviating symptoms in relatively few sessions. The PFPP process begins through building rapport with the therapist.

The PFPP therapist will first gather information about current symptoms, personal history, and life experiences. The remainder of PFPP occurs in phases meant to uncover the person's unconscious issues that are contributing to panic symptoms. The therapist will assist in revealing the person’s defense mechanisms in order to help the patient better face the emotional issues contributing to his or her panic symptoms.

The therapeutic relationship may also be utilized to provide a window into the patient's inner world. Through this process, known as working with the transference, the client will be helped to develop insight into aspects of their relationship patterns that may be contributing to panic symptoms.

Getting Help with PFPP

Initial research on the effectiveness of PFPP is promising, showing that it can help with managing and maintaining control over panic disorder symptoms. Finding a professional who treats panic disorder using PFPP can be done through a referral from your current mental health specialist. PFPP therapists in your area can also be found by searching the online database at the American Psychological Association website.


Busch, F. N., Milrod, B. L., Singer, M. B., & Aronson, A. C. (2011). Manual of Panic Focused Psychodynamic Psychotherapy-Extended Range. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Klein, C., Milrod, B. L., Busch, F. N., Levy, K. N., & Shapiro, T. (2003). A Preliminary Study of Clinical Process in Relation to Outcome in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Panic Disorder. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 23, 308-331.

Milrod, B. L., et al. (2007). A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy for Panic Disorder, The American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 265-272.

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