In the days of medications and many new mental health treatments, psychoanalysis -- the oldest form of therapy, which was developed by Sigmund Freud -- can seem outdated.

It's the butt of many jokes and brings up images of the worried well, venting about their angst on a couch, guided by a white-haired therapist complete with Austrian accent.

Rather than delving deep into a person's history and innermost thoughts, modern treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy seek to change how people think and act through simple techniques.

But therapists at the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis say their approach remains an important tool in mental health treatments.

The school just celebrated its 40th anniversary and its president, Stephen Day Ellis says psychoanalysis should not be relegated to the sidelines.

"We're constantly being told that what we do is not very relevant or important nowadays," Ellis said. "Studies actually show that our work is at least as efficacious as some of the briefer, more popular therapies, and in many ways more helpful in that our results last longer."

Ellis says modern psychoanalysis doesn't have to go on for years and years. "Some people just want some short-term help. The psychoanalyst today is prepared to help that person at whatever length of time they would like to work."

He says the school and its therapists serve a diverse group of clients who are addressing a wide array of issues in their therapy sessions.

He says research is catching up in documenting the effectiveness of this approach and several studies have shown this approach to be as effective as other, newer forms of therapy.