Psychoanalysis and related psychodynamic psychotherapies have historically had a limited engagement with substance use and antisocial personality disorders. This in part reflects an early preoccupation with ‘transference neuroses’ and in part reflects later de-emphasis of diagnosis and focus on therapeutic process. Nonetheless, psychoanalytic perspectives can usefully inform thinking about approaches to treatment of such disorders and there are psychoanalytic constructs that have specific relevance to their treatment. This paper reviews some prominent strands of psychoanalytic thinking as they pertain to the treatment of substance abuse and antisocial personality disorders. It is argued that, while Freudian formulations lead to a primarily pessimistic view of the prospect of treatment of such disorders, both the British object relations and the North American self psychology traditions suggest potentially productive approaches. Finally the limited empirical evidence from brief psychodynamically informed treatments of substance use disorders is reviewed. It is concluded that such treatments are not demonstrably effective but that, since no form of psychotherapy has established high efficacy with substance use disorders, brief psychdynamic therapies are not necessarily of lesser value than other treatments and may have specific value for particular individuals and in particular treatment contexts
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