The Psychotherapy Practice Research Network (PPRNet) blog began in 2013 in response to psychotherapy clinicians, researchers, and educators who expressed interest in receiving regular information about current practice-oriented psychotherapy research. It offers a monthly summary of two or three published psychotherapy research articles. Each summary is authored by Dr. Tasca and highlights practice implications of selected articles. Past blogs are available in the archives. This content is only available in English.
…I blog about transtheoretical principles of change, microaggressions and outcomes, interpretations and outcomes.
Type of Research
- ALL Topics (clear)
- Alliance and Therapeutic Relationship
- Anxiety Disorders
- Attendance, Attrition, and Drop-Out
- Client Factors
- Client Preferences
- Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Combination Therapy
- Common Factors
- Depression and Depressive Symptoms
- Efficacy of Treatments
- Feedback and Progress Monitoring
- Group Psychotherapy
- Illness and Medical Comorbidities
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
- Long-term Outcomes
- Neuroscience and Brain
- Outcomes and Deterioration
- Personality Disorders
- Placebo Effect
- Practice-Based Research and Practice Research Networks
- Psychodynamic Therapy (PDT)
- Resistance and Reactance
- Self-Reflection and Awareness
- Suicide and Crisis Intervention
- Therapist Factors
- Transference and Countertransference
- Trauma and/or PTSD
- Treatment Length and Frequency
Negative Effects of Psychotherapy
Negative Effects of Psychotherapy
Cuijpers, P., Reijnders, M., Karyotaki, E., de Wit, L., & Ebert, D.D. (2018). Negative effects of psychotherapy for adult depression: A meta-analysis of deterioration rates. Journal of Affective Disorders, 239, 138-145.
Several types of psychotherapy are effective to treat depression, and there appears to be very little difference among the treatments in term of their effectiveness. Despite the documented effectiveness of psychotherapies to treat depression, there is also a growing interest in the clinical and research community about negative effects. Negative effects refer to the deterioration or worsening of depressive symptoms during treatment. Some may also refer to drop-out or non-response as a negative effect because these events are demoralizing and may prevent a patient from seeking more adequate care. Some researchers estimated that 5% to 10% of patients deteriorate during therapy. Deteriorations may not be due solely to the therapy itself, but instead may reflect the natural course of depression. In this meta-analysis, Cuijpers and colleagues examined studies in which a psychotherapy for depression was compared to a control condition in which patients did not receive an active treatment. In such studies, one might expect the control condition to represent what would happen in terms of symptoms if the patient received no treatment. Despite over 100 randomized controlled trials of a psychotherapy versus a non-active treatment control condition for depression, only 18 studies reported enough information to estimate negative effects. There was a median deterioration rate in the psychotherapy groups of about 4%, whereas the risk of deterioration in the control groups was about 11%. There were no differences in deterioration rates among types of psychotherapy (CBT vs others), treatment format (group vs individual), or type of control group (wait-list vs care as usual).
Only 6.2% of research studies reported enough information to estimate negative effects, making it difficult to get a good estimate that represents all studies and patients. Nevertheless, receiving psychotherapy reduced deterioration rates by more than 61% compared to untreated control conditions, suggesting that psychotherapy can help some patients who might get worse with no treatment. Therapists should work to recognize and evaluate deterioration rates in therapy because they do occur for an important minority of patients. Some have suggested ongoing progress monitoring as a means of reducing the number of patients who might get worse during psychotherapy.
Therapeutic Alliance in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy
Karver, M. S., De Nadai, A. S., Monahan, M., & Shirk, S. R. (2018). Meta-analysis of the prospective relation between alliance and outcome in child and adolescent psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 341-355.
Over the past decades there has been increasing research on the efficacy of psychotherapy for children and adolescents, but outcomes have not always been positive. Treatment of children and adolescents comes with challenges that are unique from those experienced in therapy of adults. For example, unlike most adults, children and adolescents may not be the ones to choose to attend therapy - that decision is often made by adults in their lives. Furthermore, psychotherapists must also develop and maintain a collaborative relationship with parents, on whom the therapist and child/adolescent rely in order to be able to engage in treatment. Because of the unique characteristics of working with children and adolescents, negotiating, developing, maintaining, and repairing the therapeutic alliance is potentially complex. The therapeutic alliance is defined as an agreement on tasks of therapy, an agreement on goals of therapy, and the relational bond between therapist and client. In this meta-analysis, Karver and colleagues reviewed 28 studies of psychotherapy with children and adolescents. The mean age was about 12 years, most children/adolescents had internalizing problems, but others had problems with externalizing behaviors, and substance abuse. Almost two thirds of the studies involved a version of behavior or cognitive behavioral therapy. The therapeutic alliance was measured from the perspective of the client, therapist, and/or the parent. The overall mean effect size of the alliance-outcome relationship was small to moderate: r = .19 (p < .01, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.13, 0.25]). Larger effect sizes were seen in those therapies of children and adolescents with internalizing disorders (r = .19), and when the therapist – parent alliance was measured and correlated with outcomes (r = .30). In other words, a positive alliance was most important for internalizing disorders, and for the relationship between therapist and parent.
The findings of this meta-analysis indicate that the therapeutic alliance, especially with the parent, is important to the outcomes of children and adolescents in psychotherapy. Clinicians should not only develop an alliance with the youth, but also with the parent/caregiver. Therapists should also consider measuring the alliance regularly during therapy as a means of heading off any ruptures (with the youth or the parent) that might endanger the therapy. The authors recommended using the Therapeutic Alliance Scale for Children – Revised with children/adolescents, and the Working Alliance Inventory with parents.
The Effects of Routine Outcome Monitoring
Lambert, M. J., Whipple, J. L., & Kleinstäuber, M. (2018). Collecting and delivering progress feedback: A meta-analysis of routine outcome monitoring. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 520-537.
Somewhere between 5% and 10% of adult clients in clinical trials of psychotherapy get worse, and the numbers are likely higher in regular clinical practice. In addition, some therapists are more effective than others, so that some therapists have few clients who get worse whereas others consistently have high rates of poor client outcomes. Unfortunately, therapists have a difficult time assessing their client outcomes. Many therapists are overly optimistic about their clients’ outcomes, and clinicians frequently do not identify when clients get worse. One likely reason for this erroneous assessment of client outcomes is that typically psychotherapists do not have quality information in order to make accurate decisions and predictions. Assessing client outcomes on a regular basis throughout treatment is a difficult and complicated endeavour, and one that is beyond the capacity of most people. So, like other professionals (pilots, air traffic controllers, engineers) psychotherapists can improve their predictions and decision-making if they have access to quality information about their clients’ functioning. One source of such information for psychotherapists could be from the use of routine outcome monitoring. Routine outcome monitoring involves assessing client mental health functioning with reliable psychometric scales throughout the course of treatment, and feeding this information back to therapists who can use the data to adjust what they are doing if necessary. The two most commonly used outcome monitoring tools are the Outcome Questionnaire-45 (OQ-45) which is part of the OQ Analyst Feedback System, and the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS) and Session Rating Scale (SRS) which are part of the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS). In this meta-analysis, Lambert and colleagues assessed the effect of regular outcome monitoring with the OQ-45 and the ORS to improve client outcomes. In 15 studies with almost 8,500 participants, the OQ-45 outperformed treatment as usual but with a small effect (SMD = .14, 95% CI [.08, .21]). However, the positive effect of using the OQ-45 with feedback was larger for the 31.2% of clients who were not doing well in therapy (SMD = .33, 95% CI [.25, .41]). Among those studies that used the OQ standardized feedback system that provides recommendations to therapists, the effects were even larger (SMD = .49, 95% CI [.25, .73]). Similarly, in nine studies with over 2,000 participants, the effects of using the PCOMS system had a small to moderate positive effects on client outcomes (SMD = .40, 95% CI [.29, .51]).
The research evidence supports the use of routine outcome monitoring with the OQ-45 or the PCOMS to improve client outcomes. Quality information that is fed back to clinicians can compensate for the limited capacity that any clinician has to accurately detect a client that is worsening in psychotherapy. The information provided to therapists with these feedback systems can highlight potential problems in the client and identify strain in the therapeutic alliance. This information can sensitise therapists to at-risk clients and situations, and encourage therapists to adjust their interventions or interpersonal stances accordingly.
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Therapist Multicultural Competence and Cultural Adaptation of Psychotherapy
Soto, A., Smith, T.B., Griner, D., Rodriguez, M.D., & Bernal, G. (2018). Cultural adaptations and therapist multicultural competence: Two meta‐analytic reviews. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74, 1907-1923.
There is emerging evidence that a client’s cultural experiences and background have an impact on the therapeutic alliance and on client outcomes. One means of adjusting psychotherapy is by cultural adaptations, which involve modification of treatment to consider language and culture in such a way that the treatment is more compatible with the client’s values. Cultural adaptation might incorporate holistic/spiritual concepts of wellness, and may include cultural rituals. Therapists could also align treatment goals and methods with the client’s culture. Domains of psychotherapy that psychotherapists can adapt to a client’s culture include: language of treatment, metaphors used in therapy, the person of the therapist (assigning a therapist with a similar cultural background), content discussed, concepts explored, goals of therapy, methods of interventions consistent with cultural values, and the context of treatment. Cultural competence refers to the therapist’s ability to engage and work effectively with diverse clients. These competencies include: awareness (ability to recognize cultural backgrounds, assumptions, and biases), knowledge (understanding of specific cultural groups and their history and experiences), and skills (ability to engage cultural groups and modify treatment to match cultural needs). In the first of two meta analyses, Soto and colleagues identified 99 studies of cultural adaptation that included data from almost 14,000 clients who were mainly Asian American, Hispanic/Latin American, or African American. The most frequent adaptations were for language of therapy, cultural values, and matching therapists with similar racial/ethnic backgrounds. Cultural adaptation had a significant, moderate, and positive effect to improve psychotherapy outcomes, d = 0.50 (se = 0.04; 95% CI, 0.42–0.58; p < 0.001). Even after adjusting for publication bias, the findings were significant but smaller d = 0.35 (95% CI, 0.27–0.43). All types of adaptation had a positive impact, but the biggest effect came with providing treatment in the native language of the client. Also, older clients benefitted most for cultural adaptation. In the second meta-analysis, the authors identified 15 studies of 2,640 clients on the effect of therapists’ level of multicultural competence. They found a significant and moderate association between therapist cultural competence and positive client outcomes, r = 0.24 (95% CI, 0.10–0.37; p < 0.001). However, only the client’s (and not the therapist’s) rating of therapist cultural competence was associated with better outcomes.
The results of these meta-analyses clearly indicate that both cultural adaptations of psychotherapy and therapist cultural competence improve client outcomes. During the assessment phase, therapists should evaluate clients’ racial and ethnic backgrounds and the salient culturally-specific values and worldviews held by the client. Therapists could, whenever feasible, adapt their treatment to the client’s culturally-held values. Therapists might, if possible, arrange to provide therapy in the native language of the client – particularly for older clients. Cultural issues should be handled by therapists in a humble way. And therapists should keep in mind that it is the client’s experience, and not the therapist’s self-assessment, of cultural competence that is most relevant.
Author email: Alberto_Soto@brown.edu
Effects of Mental Health Interventions with Asian Americans
Huey, S. J. & Tilley, J. L. (2018). Effects of mental health interventions with Asian Americans: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 86, 915-930.
Do existing mental health interventions work well for patients of Asian descent? Interventions delivered in the typical way in which they were devised may not be as effective as intended when it comes to culturally diverse groups like Asian Americans. The clinical trials in which the treatments were developed typically are almost exclusively made up of White participants, and most evidence-based treatments do not consider cultural considerations. Culturally responsive psychotherapies that are consistent with the cultural norms, values, and expectations of patients may be more effective. That is, if an evidence-based treatment is not culture specific, it may not be as effective as intended. Even when culture is taken into account in evidence-based treatments, the accommodation tends to be for African American or Hispanic/Latino patients, and not for Asian American patients. Asian American and East Asian heritage is often influenced by Confucian values that emphasize interpersonal harmony, mutual obligations, and respect for hierarchy in relationships. This may mean that patients of Asian descent may be less committed to personal choice, more attuned to others, and more socially conforming. This may lead to cultural differences in cognitive processing and emotional reactions to interpersonal contexts. In this meta-analysis, Huey and colleagues assessed if the effects of evidence-based treatments will be bigger if the treatments were specifically tailored for Asian Americans. Their review included 18 studies with 6,377 participants. Samples included Chinese Americans, Cambodian Americans, Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans, and other Asian groups. Problems treated included depression, PTSD, smoking, and other concerns. About half of the studies were of CBT, and most (91%) were culturally tailored in some way either for an Asian subgroup or tailored for minorities in general. The mean effect size for evidence-based treatments versus control groups was d = .75, SE = .14, p < .001, indicating a moderate to large effect. Treatments tailored specifically for Asian subgroups (e.g., Chinese Americans) showed the largest effects (d = 1.10), whereas treatment with no cultural tailoring or non-Asian tailoring showed the smallest effects (d = .25).
Existing psychological treatments are efficacious for Asian Americans, with moderate effects. However, treatments specifically adapted for Asian American subgroups showed the largest effects, indicating that specific cultural adaptations could substantially improve the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Asian Americans face challenges in terms of using and engaging in treatments. Developing culturally specific interventions to improve acceptability of treatment may be one way to make the most therapeutic impact on one of the largest growing racial groups in North America.
Author email: email@example.com
Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy for Psychiatric Conditions
Lilliengren, P., Johansson, R., Lindqvist, K., Mechler, J., & Andersson, G. (2016). Efficacy of experiential dynamic therapy for psychiatric conditions: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Psychotherapy, 53(1), 90-104.
There is growing research support for the efficacy of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapies to treat common mental health problems. A subtype of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapies is called experiential-dynamic therapy (EDT), which goes by a number of different names such as Fosha’s accelerated experiential-dynamic psychotherapy, and McCullough’s affect phobia therapy. A fundamental assumption of EDT is that conditions like depression, anxiety and personality disorders are by-products of an individual’s attempts to regulate strong emotions associated with adverse experiences in attachment relationships during childhood. When the attachment system and associated affects are re-awakened in current relationships, the individual may engage in maladaptive coping that leads to difficulties in relationships. While EDTs may focus on helping patients to understand how their attachment difficulties lead to inhibitory affects and maladaptive defenses, the treatment favors interventions that facilitate direct experience of underlying emotions in the here and now of the therapy. In this meta-analysis, Lilliengren and colleagues reviewed 28 studies with 1,782 adult patients who had a mood, anxiety, personality, or mixed disorder. Compared to inactive controls, EDT showed a moderate and significant effect at post-treatment (range: d = .39 to .65) and at follow-up assessments (range: d = .26 to .62), with largest effects for depression and anxiety. When researchers compared EDT to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in five studies, there were no significant effects at post-treatment (d = .02, 95% CI: -.24, .28) or follow-up (d = .07, 95% CI: -.22, .36). The average quality of EDT studies was good. In fact, studies with larger samples, that used blind randomization and assessments, and appropriate statistical tests showed larger effects for EDT. Drop-out rates for EDT (16.3%) were similar to other treatments.
Experiential-dynamic therapy (EDT), which is a variant of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, was more effective than no-treatment and just as effective as evidence-based treatments like CBT. The findings are similar to those reported in many comparative outcome studies in which any bona-fide psychotherapy is effective for many disorders. The average quality of the EDT studies was quite good, suggesting that the findings were reliable and valid, and perhaps underestimating the true effects of EDT.
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org