The New Savoy Partnership Website

Closing Plenary Session: What have we learnt, and what do we still not know?

  print button close window

Professor Peter Fonagy, Freud Memorial Professor of Psychoanalysis and Director of the Sub-Department of Clinical Health Psychology, University College, London and Chief Executive, The Anna Freud Centre, London

  • How well is the use of psychological therapies justified and are there evidence-based indications for a choice of treatment?
  • What is our evidence base for training and service delivery models?
  • So – taken together – do we have ways of thinking about clinical problems that allow for meaningful matching of therapies to clients?


Peter Fonagy, PhD, FBA, is Freud Memorial Professor of Psychoanalysis and Director of the Sub-Department of Clinical Health Psychology at University College London; Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre, London; and Consultant to the Child and Family Program at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Baylor College of Medicine. He is Chair of the Postgraduate Education Committee of the International Psychoanalytic Association and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is a clinical psychologist and a training and supervising analyst in the British Psycho-Analytical Society in child and adult analysis.

His work integrates empirical research with psychoanalytic theory, and his clinical interests center around borderline psychopathology, violence, and early attachment relationships. He has published over 300 chapters and articles and has authored or edited several books. His most recent books include Psychoanalytic Theories: Perspectives from Developmental Psychopathology (with M. Target); What Works for Whom? A Critical Review of Psychotherapy Research (with A. Roth); Psychotherapy for Borderline Personality Disorder: Mentalization-Based Treatment (with Anthony Bateman); Mentalization-Based Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder: A Practical Guide (also with Anthony Bateman); Reaching the Hard to Reach: Evidence-Based Funding Priorities for Intervention and Research (with Geoffrey Baruch & David Robins), and Handbook of Mentalization-Based Treatment (with Jon Allen).


Evidence-based medicine has brought many blessings, but as with any effective treatment, there have to be side-effects. There are many advantages in moving away from an authority and rhetoric based approach to offering psychosocial treatment to a rational choice based on good evidence for cause and effect relationships. The misapplication of evidence-based medicine comes in areas where knowledge is incomplete. The paper will identify some of the areas of uncertainty and it will be argued that in these instances we have to be cautious that our wish for immediate and complete understanding does not obliterate our legitimate scientific stance of not knowing.