Via the The Economist:
The treatment, in the early 1880s, of an Austrian hysteric called Anna O is generally regarded as the beginning of talking-it-through as a form of therapy.
But psychoanalysis, as this version of talk therapy became known, is an expensive procedure. Anna’s doctor, Josef Breuer, is estimated to have spent over 1,000 hours with her.
Since then, things have improved. A typical course of a modern talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, consists of 12-16 hour-long sessions and is a reasonably efficient way of treating conditions like depression and anxiety (hysteria is no longer a recognised diagnosis).
Medication, too, can bring rapid change. Nevertheless, treating disorders of the psyche is still a hit-and-miss affair, and not everyone wishes to bare his soul or take mind-altering drugs to deal with his problems. A new kind of treatment may, though, mean he does not have to.