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 psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder, capacity to metnalize and therapy resistant depression, and negative effects of psychotherapy
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
Mental Health Disorders Increase Health Care Utilization in Adults with Chronic Disease
Mental Health Disorders Increase Health Care Utilization in Adults with Chronic Disease
Sporinova B, Manns B, Tonelli M, et al. (2019). Association of mental health disorders with health care utilization and costs among adults with chronic cisease. JAMA Network Open. Published online: 2(8):e199910. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.9910
Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic kidney disease are common and represent a major burden on the individual and on society. So much so that chronic diseases represent about 60% of global disease burden. There is also a documented association between mental and physical health, such that mortality in cancer, diabetes, and following a heart attack is significantly higher in those with depression. The cost of chronic disease to the Canadian economy represents about 60% of the annual health care budget, and depression alone has a $32.3 billion impact on the Canadian economy. In this economic study, Sporinova and colleagues sought to quantify the impact of having a mental disorder on health care utilization and cost for those with chronic diseases. The study used a large data base of adults from Alberta, Canada who had at least one chronic disease including asthma, COPD, heart failure, myocardial infarction, diabetes, epilepsy, and chronic kidney disease. Mental disorders were defined as a concurrent diagnosis of depression, schizophrenia, or substance use disorder. Factors like sex, income, and rural residency were controlled in the analyses. Of the cohort with a chronic illness, 15.8% had a mental disorder, with depression as the most common mental disorder at 11.2%. People with chronic illness and a mental disorder tended to be younger, women, with a lower socio-economic status, and they tended to die at a higher rate during the study period. The mean total 3-year health costs of those with a chronic illness was $20,210 (95% CI: $19,674, $20,750) Canadian dollars, whereas for those with a concurrent mental disorder the cost was significantly higher at $38,250 (95% CI: $36,476, $39,935). Higher costs were driven by greater hospitalizations, prescription drug use, and physician visits. Costs were higher for older people, and for those with more than one mental disorder.
The results clearly indicated that an important proportion of those with chronic illnesses were also diagnosed with a mental disorder. Further, a diagnosis of a mental disorder drove up the burden of the chronic illness significantly, both for the individual and for the health care system. Past research indicated improved medical outcomes when treating depression in medical patients. And so, although the physical symptoms of chronic illness may appear prominent, clinicians must treat mental health problems when they exist concurrently, if they want to improve patient medical and mental health outcomes.
Long-Term Medical Conditions Reduce Outcomes in Psychotherapy
Dalgadilo, J., Dawson, A., Gilbody, S., & Bohnke, J.R. (2017). Impact of long-term medical conditions on the outcomes of psychological therapy for depression and anxiety. British Journal of Psychiatry, 210, 47-53.
Twenty percent of people have long-term medical conditions, and this percentage rises to 58% for people over 60. These long-term conditions account for approximately 70% of health care costs in the UK. The most prevalent long-term conditions in the population include: hypertension, chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Do these conditions reduce the outcomes of psychological therapies? Dalgadilo and colleagues conducted a large study in the UK of patients who accessed publicly funded psychological services. The authors looked at what impact long-medical problems had on psychological intervention outcomes. Patients accessing the public system in the UK received stepped care - so that they were first given self help followed by a second step of intensive psychotherapy, if they needed it. The sample for the study included over 28,000 patients with a mean age of just over 38 years. About 23.2% had a long-term condition. Sixty-eight percent only received the low intensity self help, and 32% required the intensive psychotherapy. Those with long-term conditions, compared to those without long-term conditions, tended to report higher levels of distress and lower quality of life at the outset. Long-term conditions that were associated with poorer psychological intervention outcomes included: chronic pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, severe mental health problems, and diabetes. The effects were small (d = .20) to medium (d = .50) sized (confidence intervals not reported). Those with long-term conditions were more likely to receive high intensity psychotherapy after the self help. However, poorer outcomes for those with long-term conditions, compared to those without long-term conditions, were still apparent after they received the intensive psychotherapy.
Compared to those without long-term medical conditions, those with long-term conditions have a higher level of impairment to start with and tend to finish therapy with greater depression and anxiety. The study points to the need to integrate psychological therapies in medical practices - especially for those with long-term medical conditions. Certain conditions like chronic pain, and having multiple conditions increase psychological distress and likely reduce patient mental health outcomes.
Long-Term Efficacy of Psychological Therapies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Laird, K.T., Tanner-Smith, E.E., Russell, A.C., Hollon, S.D., & Walker, L.S. (2016). Short-term and long-term efficacy of psychological therapies for irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that affects 5% to 16% of the population. People with IBS have reduced quality of life similar to those with heart disease, heart failure, and diabetes. Previous meta analyses indicated that psychological therapies are just as effective as antidepressant medications immediately after treatment for improving symptoms of IBS. However, whether psychological therapies have longer lasting effects is unknown. It is important to patients and providers to know the longer term effects of psychological treatments for IBS because the disorder has a fluctuating course, and so symptoms may reappear after treatment is completed. In their meta analysis, Laird and colleagues reviewed 41 studies that recruited almost 2,300 adult patients. [A note about meta analysis: Meta analysis combines the standardized effect sizes (d) across many studies to estimate an average effect size. This means that meta analyses are much more reliable than any single study, and when possible they should be the basis for practice recommendations]. Psychological therapies for IBS often included cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but also included relaxation therapy, mindfulness, hypnosis, behavioral treatment, and psychodynamic therapies. Control conditions often were: supportive therapy, education, fake treatment for biofeedback or hypnosis, online discussion groups, treatment as usual, or wait-list controls. Psychological therapies were more effective than control conditions immediately post-treatment in improving GI symptoms, and the effects were moderately large (d = .69). Psychological therapies remained more effective than control conditions up to 6 months post-treatment (d = .76), and from 6 months to 1 year post-treatment (d = .73). CBT and other treatments (e.g., relaxation, hypnosis) were equally effective; and individual and group delivered treatments were no different in their efficacy. The number of sessions, duration of sessions, and frequency of sessions did not impact the efficacy of psychological interventions.
Determining the longer term efficacy of psychological treatment for IBS is important because the symptoms tend to be recurrent and sometimes are chronic. Psychological treatments reduce GI symptoms in adults with IBS, and the effects appear to be long lasting – at least up to 1 year post-treatment. The average individual who received psychotherapy was better off than 75% of control condition participants.
The Efficacy of Psychotherapy for Depression in Parkinson’s Disease
Xie, C.L., Wang, X.D., Chen, J., Lin, H.Z., Chen, Y.H., Pan, J.L., & Wang, W.W. (2015). A systematic review and meta-analysis of cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic therapy for depression in Parkinson’s disease patients. Neurological Sciences, 1-11.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. When dopamine producing cells in the brain are damaged or do not produce enough dopamine, motor symptoms of PD appear. Non-motor symptoms, including depression, apathy, and sleep disorders are also common so that in clinical settings about a 40% of patients with PD may have a depressive disorder. Depression is a top predictor of poor quality of life in patients with PD. Depression in PD is not well understood but may be due to neurobiological vulnerability and to psychological factors. Antidepressant medications are often prescribed for depression in PD but their efficacy is questionable. Xie and colleagues argue that long term use of some antidepressants may lead to worsening of some PD motor symptoms. In this meta analysis, Xie and colleagues examine the efficacy of brief psychological interventions, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic psychotherapy for depressive symptoms in PD. Twelve eligible studies were included in the meta analysis representing 766 patients with a mean age of 62 years (48% men). As an interesting note, 9 of the 12 studies were conducted in China and 3 were from the US or UK. Six of the studies used CBT for depression, and the remaining used psychodynamic therapy for depression in PD patients. Control conditions were often “treatment as usual”, and varied from antidepressant medication (e.g., Citalopram), nursing care, telephone calls, or no treatment for the depression. The effects of psychological interventions compared to control conditions on depressive symptoms were large, and remained large even after removing outlier studies. Outcomes for psychodynamic psychotherapy were better than for CBT, although both interventions resulted in large effects. There were also significant positive effects of brief psychotherapies on cognitive functioning, but not on quality of life. The authors were concerned that the quality of studies was variable and that many studies demonstrated a risk of bias. Further, most studies did not report outcomes at follow up periods.
Significant depressive symptoms commonly occur in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). As a result, overall quality of life may be reduced in patients with PD. Medications for depression may be complicated by the neurodegenerative nature of PD – that is, effects of medications on depressive symptoms may be small and their neuro-motor side effects may be intolerable for some patients. This meta analysis by Xie and colleagues of 12 studies suggests that better research on psychotherapy for depression in PD needs to be conducted with adequate follow ups. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that brief psychological interventions may represent viable and effective alternatives for patients with PD who have a depressive disorder.
The Efficacy of Existential Therapies for Physically Ill Patients
Vos, J., Craig, M., & Cooper, M. (2015). Existential therapies: A meta-analysis of their effects on psychological outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83, 115-128.
Existential therapies are a group of psychological interventions that address questions about existence, and they assume that by overcoming existential distress, psychological problems may be decreased. Underlying existential therapy is the assumption that: people need a meaning or purpose, individuals have a capacity to choose and actualize this potential, people will do better when they face challenges rather than avoid them, and human experiencing is related to others’ experiences. Vos and colleagues list four main schools of existential therapies: Daseinanalysis which focuses on free expression and greater openness to the world; logo-therapies which are aimed at helping clients establish meaning in their lives through didactics, British existential therapy which encourages clients to explore their experiences, and the existential-humanistic approach which help clients face mortality, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. Vos and colleagues review the research literature showing that meaning in life and positive well-being are associated with coping with stressful life events including life threatening illnesses. In this meta-analysis, the authors review the randomized controlled trials of different types of existential therapies to assess the efficacy of the treatments compared to a control condition like social support groups, being on a waiting list, or receiving care as usual. They grouped outcomes into four areas: meaning in life, psychopathology, self-efficacy, and physical well-being. Their meta-analysis included 15 studies of 1,792 participants, 13 of the studies were with medically ill patients, and 10 of those studies were aimed at patients with cancer. Effects of existential therapy versus a control condition on meaning in life tended to be positive and moderate. Effects on psychopathology and self-efficacy were positive and small. The effects of existential therapies versus a control condition on physical well-being were not significant. There were no differences between the types of existential therapy, though the number of studies was small to adequately assess these differences.
Clients seem to benefit from group therapy interventions focused on meaning compared to social support groups, being on a waiting list, or receiving care as usual. Medically ill patients who received existential therapy found greater meaning in their lives, and the effects were moderate to large. Their psychopathology and self-efficacy also improved significantly but effects were small. The quality and number of studies was not optimal which limits the confidence one can have in these findings. The authors conclude that despite the small number of studies, existential therapies that use structured interventions that incorporate psychoeducation and discussions on meaning in life are a promising treatment for physically ill patients.
Depression as a Risk Factor for Poor Prognosis Among Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome
Lichtman, J.H., Froelicher, E.S., Blumenthal, J.A., Carney, R.A., Doering, L.V., et al. (2014). Depression as a risk factor for poor prognosis among patients with acute coronary syndrome: Systematic review and recommendations: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 129, 1350-1369.
There are about 15.4 million US adults with coronary heart disease. About 20% of those hospitalized for an acute coronary syndrome (ACS; that includes myocardial infarction or unstable angina) meet diagnostic criteria for major depression. An even larger percentage of those with heart disease show sub-clinical levels of depressive symptoms. As I reported in the June 2014 PPRNet Blog about 4% of the population suffer from depression, and so the rates of depression are substantially higher among those with ACS. There is a large body of research showing a reliable association between depression and increased morbidity and mortality after ACS. The goal of this scientific statement by the American Heart Association is to review current evidence for the role of depression as a risk factor among patients with ACS. The authors were particularly interested in studies looking at: (1) all cause mortality, (2) cardiac mortality, and (3) composite outcomes including mortality and nonfatal events. Fifty three studies, representing tens of thousands of patients were included in the review. Twenty one of 32 published studies indicated that depression is a risk factor for all-cause mortality after ACS. Fewer studies looked at the relationship between depression and cardiac mortality, but 8 of 12 studies suggested that depression is a risk factor for cardiac mortality after ACS. Finally evidence from 17 of 22 studies suggested that depression was a risk factor for combined outcomes of cardiac mortality, all cause mortality, and nonfatal cardiac events. The authors also reported on meta analyses looking at the association between depression and mortality following myocardial infarction. Depression increased the risk in individuals of mortality from 1.6 to 2.3 times. The authors concluded that the American Heart Association should elevate depression to the status of a risk factor for adverse medical events in patients with ACS.
This scientific statement by the American Heart Association published in a technical journal read by cardiologists is important because it acknowledges a mental health problem as a risk factor for mortality from a common medical disease. The evidence is quite strong that depression increases the risk of death in those with heart disease, especially acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Some of the mechanisms for the risk may include genetic/physiological factors like inflammation, platelet aggregation, and the serotonin system that are associated with both depression and ACS. In addition, depression can result in less physical activity and poorer self care which could exacerbate a number of health problems that increase the risk for cardiac disease. Depression is also associated with increases in high risk health behaviors like smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and non-adherence to medical treatment. Assessing for and treating depression among patients who have a history of or are at risk of heart disease is important. If such a patient is depressed or has elevated depressive symptoms, then the depression should be treated in order to reduce the risk of death due to medical problems. In the July 2014 PPRNet Blog, I reported on a network meta analysis showing the positive effects of 7 psychotherapies for depression.