BACKGROUND The attempt to define psychotherapeutic skills appropriate for psychiatrists has aroused an interest in supportive psychotherapy, a previously undervalued and underdeveloped member of the psychotherapeutic family. This has been coupled with an increasing recognition of the importance of support within formal psychotherapies, especially when working with highly disturbed patients.
METHOD A review of supportive psychotherapy (ST) was performed, based on a Medline literature search.
RESULTS It is argued that, from the perspective of attachment theory, support is an integral part of al psychotherapies. ST is also a specific mode of treatment suitable for some patients suffering from psychotic illnesses and borderline personality disorder. ST is an eclectic treatment drawing on many theoretical approaches. A common theme based on a narrative co-constructionist perspective, the search for positive meaning, is identified.
CONCLUSIONS Supportive psychotherapy is an essential component of good psychiatric practice. Further research is needed to define its benefits and limitations.