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
Costs and Benefits of Funding Psychological Services as Part of Medicare in Canada
Vasiliadis, H-M., Dezetter, A., Latimer, A., Drapeau, M., & Lesage, A. (2017). Assessing costs and benefits of insuring psychological services as part of Medicare for depression in Canada. Psychiatric Services in Advance.
About 20% of the population have a mental disorder like depression during their lifetime, and depression is associated with a number of negative health outcomes like mortality, health system costs, and low quality of life. Most patients prefer psychotherapy over medications, but there are significant barriers to accessing psychotherapy, with cost as the biggest barrier. Recently in the United Kingdom, a cost-benefit analysis was used to argue that the development of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) program would pay for itself in five years. The IAPT is a system of reimbursing psychological therapies through the publicly funded National Health Service in the UK. Similar models are in place in France and Australia. Vasiliadis and colleagues also conducted an economic study in Canada to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of providing psychological services as part of Canada`s Medicare system. They did so by using economic modeling of incidences of depression among patients over a 40-year period, and assessing the relative costs and outcomes of increasing publicly funded access to psychotherapy compared with the status quo. They used known incidence rates for depression in the adult population (2.9%), and estimated health service use from the Canadian Community Health Survey (CHS), and estimated costs (hospitalizations, GP visits, specialist visits, seeing a psychologist or counsellor, antidepressant prescriptions) from provincial health billing manuals. They also used the existing research literature to estimate the average effects of psychotherapy for depression on various outcomes (quality of life, suicide and attempts, health service use, etc.). Adequate mental health services for depression was defined as either 8 sessions of psychotherapy or use of antidepressants. They found that 36.7% of Canadians with depression did not use mental health services, and only 67.4% of those who did access treatment received adequate care. In the economic models that were tested, increasing access to care resulted in a projected decrease in depression, suicidality, health system and societal costs. Increasing access would cost an additional $123 million per year, but savings to society in terms of reduced health system costs and increased productivity was $246 million per year. In other words, for every $1 spent by Medicare on psychotherapy, Canada would recoup $2 in reduced costs and increased productivity.
The findings of this Canadian study echo those of similar economic studies done in the UK, France, and Australia. Increasing access to psychotherapy for depression through Medicare is more effective and less costly than the status quo. In fact this Canadian study may underestimate potential gains because it did not account for the increased use of the health system by depressed people with chronic medical conditions. Currently, public expenditures for mental health and addictions in Canada account for only 7.2% of the total health budget. An increase of 0.07% of the total health budget to cover psychological services would result in health care cost savings, improved mental health, reductions in disability, and increased productivity among Canadians.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy to Prevent Relapse of Depression
Kuyken, W., Warren, F.C., Taylor, R.S., Whalley, B., Crane, C….Dalgliesh, T. (2016). Efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in prevention of depressive relapse An individual patient data meta-analysis from randomized trials. JAMA Psychiatry, 73, 565-574.
Depression results in a high level of disability and its social and economic costs appear to be rising. Although many effective treatments for depression do exist, relapse of depressive symptoms is a significant problem for many who successfully complete treatment. One of the interventions used to prevent relapse is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). MBCT teaches psychological skills that target cognitive factors that may cause relapse among those who have a history of depression by combining mindfulness training with cognitive interventions. Previous reviews have indicated the efficacy of MBCT for relapse prevention. In this meta-analysis, Kuyken and colleagues update the previous reviews and look at specific sub groups of patients who may respond differently to MBCT. From a comprehensive search of the literature, they identified 9 published randomized controlled trials comparing MBCT to another condition such as usual care, antidepressant medications, or another active treatment. These 9 studies included 1258 patients. MBCT resulted in a reduced risk of relapse in depressive symptoms compared to those who did not received MBCT within a 60 week follow up period (hazard ratio (HR), 0.79; 95%CI, 0.64-0.97). Four studies specifically compared MBCT to antidepressant medication and showed that those who received MBCT had a reduced risk of relapse compared to antidepressants (HR, 0.77; 95%CI, 0.60 – 0.98; I2, 0%). The authors also found that the preventive effect of MBCT on depression relapse declined over time. No demographic variables were associated with the effects of MBCT, but higher levels of depression at baseline were associated with a larger effect of MBCT.
The findings of this meta analysis show that MBCT helps to prevent depression relapse in those who have recovered from depressive symptoms. Its effects appear to be superior to usual care and to antidepressant medications. Unlike anti depressants, those who were treated with MBCT learned skills that helped them to cope with stressors that may precipitate another depressive episode. The effects of MBCT appear to be particularly useful for those with greater depressive symptoms at the outset, but those with lower depressive symptoms may not benefit as much from MBCT.
Comparing Three Psychotherapies for Adolescents with Major Depression
Goodyear, I.M., Reynolds, S., Barrett, B., Byford, S., Dubicka, B., ….Fonagy, P. (2016). Cognitive behavioural therapy and short-term psychoanalytical psychotherapy versus a brief psychosocial intervention in adolescents with unipolar major depressive disorder (IMPACT): A multicentre, pragmatic, observer-blind, randomised controlled superiority trial. Lancet Psychiatry, Online first publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(16)30378-9.
Major depression affects a large proportion of adolescents worldwide. The Global Burden of Disease Study Found that depressive disorders accounted for over 40% of disease burden caused by all mental and substance use disorders, with the highest burden occurring for those between the ages of 10 and 29. Although there is good evidence for cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat depression in adolescents, data is scarce for long term outcomes – which is an important issue because maintaining treatment gains reduces the risk for relapse. There is also little research on alternative treatments to CBT and their long term effects. In this large study, Goodyear and colleagues (2016) randomly assigned 470 adolescents with major depression to receive CBT, short-term psychoanalytical therapy (STPT), or a brief psychosocial intervention (BPI). CBT was based on a commonly used model but adapted to include parents and emphasized behavioural techniques. The STPT model emphasized the child – therapist relationship in which the therapist emphasized understanding feelings and difficulties in ones life. STPT also included some family meeting. BPI on the other hand focused on psychoeducation about depression, was task and goal oriented, and emphasized interpersonal activities. The study also compared cost-effectiveness of the three treatments – that is, whether the treatments’ costs relative to their effectiveness were different. There were some advantages in terms of reduced depression to both CBT and STPT compared to BPI at 36 weeks and 52 weeks post treatment, but these advantages disappeared by 86 weeks follow-up. Across all three treatments, about 77% of adolescents with depression were in remission (i.e., no longer depressed) by 86 weeks post-treatment. There were no differences between the three treatments in terms of cost-effectiveness.
This is one of those rare studies that is large enough to adequately compare the efficacy of alternative treatments for adolescents with major depression. CBT, STPT, and BPI were all associated with reduced depression in adolescents, and with maintenance of these improvements 1 year after the start of treatment. Both BPI and STPT provide alternative choices to CBT for patients and therapists.
Is it Feasible to Have a Nationally Funded Psychotherapy Service?
Community and Mental Health Team, Health and Social Care Information Centre (2015). Psychological therapies; Annual report on the use of IAPT services: England 2014/15.
There have been calls from mental health professional organizations and by the media to provide publicly funded psychotherapy in Canada. Rates of common mental disorders in Canada are high, such that about 20% of the population will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. In 1998, the estimated direct and indirect economic cost of mental illness in Canada was $7.9 billion (all figures are in Canadian dollars). Current estimates of costs to fund a public psychotherapy service in Canada may be about $1 billion to $2.8 billion – which far outweighs the cost. Most outpatient psychotherapy in Canada is provided by professionals in private practice who charge somewhere between $100 and $200 per session, costing Canadians nearly $1 billion per year. Some people are fortunate to have workplace insurance that covers some but not all of the costs, but most people in Canada do not have insurance and so they pay out of pocket or they go untreated. Research shows us that approximately 13 to 18 sessions are needed for 50% of clients to get better with psychotherapy. Which means that even with an insurance plan, many Canadians who need psychotherapy will find it to be a financial burden. Since 2008, the National Health Service in England implemented the Improving Access to Psychotherapies (IAPT) services to provide publicly funded psychotherapy to the population. The psychological treatments provided through IAPT are evidence-based (e.g., CBT, interpersonal psychotherapy, brief dynamic psychotherapy for depression). For mild to moderate problems, individuals get low intensity interventions first (i.e., self help, internet based interventions), followed by more intensive psychotherapy if needed. Treatment outcomes are measured from pre- to post-treatment with valid standardized measures of depression and anxiety. At post-treatment, patients are categorized as reliably deteriorated, not changed, improved, and recovered. The goal of the IAPT is to achieve 50% recovery rates among patients. In their online 2014-15 annual report, the IAPT service reported that it treated over 400,000 patients in that year. 44.8% of patients were rated as reliably recovered – that is over 180,000 mentally ill patients improved and no longer had a mental illness. Reliable improvement was seen in 60.8% of patients – this included recovered patients plus those who still had a disorder but were feeling significantly better than when they started. Recovery was highest for people 65 years and older (57.8%). Rates of recovery were similar for depression (44.6%) and anxiety (47.8%) disorders, and between men and women. Waiting times for treatment was less than 28 days for 66.0% of patients.
The experience in England with the IAPT is instructive for Canada. The IAPT service provides evidence-based psychological therapies within a publicly funded national health service. The IAPT approached its target of 50% of patients recovering from mental illness, and over 60% of patients were reliably improved. Waiting times were low for most patients. Given the experience in England’s National Health Service, the implementation of a national strategy for psychotherapy appears to be feasible and effective. Will political leaders in Canada be able to see the financial and human value of publicly funded psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy Reduces Hospital Costs and Physician Visits
Abbass, A., Kisely, S., Rasic, D., Town, J.M., & Johansson, R. (2015). Long-term healthcare cost reduction with Intensive Short-term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy in tertiary psychiatric care. Journal of Psychiatric Research, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.03.001
Several years ago Lazar (2010) published a book detailing the cost-effectiveness of psychotherapy for a variety of disorders. That is, her systematic review found that on most economic indicators (lost income, decreased disability, decreased health utilization) psychotherapy resulted in an immediate cost reduction over and above the cost of the treatment. In this study from Halifax, Canada, Abbass and colleagues looked at the effects of psychotherapy, specifically of Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP), on the long-term reduction in hospital costs and physician visits. Abass and colleagues argue that adverse childhood events are an important determinant of adult mental health problems and of increased costs to the health system likely because of the consequence of problems with emotion regulation. Psychotherapies like ISTDP specifically address issues that are a consequence of childhood maltreatment and so might reduce some of the consequent health care costs. Abbass and colleagues provided ISTDP to 890 patients in the Halifax health care system who were referred to the psychotherapy service from emergency departments, physicians, and mental health providers. These patients’ outcomes were compared to 192 patients not seen by the clinic for various reasons. Most common diagnoses of the total sample were: somatoform disorder, anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and depressive disorder. Participant completed measures of psychological distress, and the research team were able to access provincial health usage data tracked over 3 years. Fifty eight therapists of various skill levels (psychiatrists, psychologists, family physicians, trainees) provided ISTDP. The average patient attended 7.3 sessions which cost $708 (estimated by salaries in 2006). Patients receiving psychotherapy had physician and hospital costs that decreased from $3,224 to $4759 in Canadian dollars per year over three years (again in 2006 dollars). Patients in the control condition not receiving ISTDP showed health care costs that increased from $368 to $2,663 per year. These trajectories of health care costs were significantly different. Yearly physician and health care costs for patients prior to being treated with ISTDP were greater than those of the general Canadian population, but 3 years post ISTDP their health care costs were less than the general Canadian population. In addition, compared to control patients those treated with psychotherapy showed a significant reduction in psychological distress.
This study by Abbass and colleagues demonstrates that short term psychotherapy provided to a broad range of patients and targeting health and illness behaviors related to problems with emotion regulation can reduce health care costs. These reductions in hospital and physician visits occurred in the short term and were sustained over several years. Some patients may require longer treatment, but the evidence suggests that short term interventions should be tried first.
Author email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Efficacy and Effectiveness of Group Treatment
Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change: Starting in March 2013 I will review one chapter a month from thenHandbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change in addition to reviewing psychotherapy research articles. Book chapters have more restrictive copy right rules than journal articles, so I will not provide author email addresses for these chapters. If you are interested, the Handbook table of content can be viewed on Amazon.
Burlingame, G.M., Strauss, B., & Joyce, A.S. (2013). Change mechanisms and effectiveness of small group treatments. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.) Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behaviour change (6thed.), pp. 640-689. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
Group treatments are the most common types of interventions offered in community, organizational, institutional, and hospital settings. They occur in many contexts including: outpatients, inpatients, day hospital, private practice, community health, support groups, drop-in centres, and educational organizations. Despite the extent of their application, group treatments receive relatively little research attention compared to individual psychotherapy or medication interventions. (Not to mention the pervasive and mistaken notion that group therapy is like doing individual therapy with 8-10 patients at once, or that individual therapy training is sufficient to be expert in group therapy). There are many reasons for this relatively lower amount of research, including the lack of expertise in and understanding of group practice among clinical researchers, and the substantially greater difficulty in running a clinical trial of group therapy (of the latter I have ample experience and war wounds). Nevertheless, Burlingame and colleagues summarized more than 250 studies that estimated the efficacy or effectiveness of group therapy for 12 disorders or populations. The findings indicate good or excellent evidence for the efficacy of group treatments for many disorders or patient groups (e.g., panic, social phobia, OCD, eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma related disorders, coping with breast cancer, schizophrenia, and personality disorders). There are also promising results for other disorders (e.g., mood, pain, and inpatients). Although there are substantially more studies on group CBT, most studies that compare different models (including IPT, psychodynamic, DBT, etc.) often produce equivalent outcomes. There is also lots of evidence that group therapy is as effective as individual therapy or medications for most disorders. In one U.S. study on panic disorder, group psychotherapy was the most cost effective (i.e., cost per rate of improvement) of the interventions ($246) compared to individual therapy ($565) and medications ($447). There is also research on the effects of specific characteristics of groups. For example, research on group composition (i.e., heterogenous vs homogeneous in terms of patient population or functioning) has produced mixed results, though there is emerging evidence that heterogeneous groups tend to benefit those who are lower functioning. Further, research on group cohesion (i.e., the bond between the individual and the group) which is a construct related to but distinct from alliance, is positively associated with treatment outcomes with a moderate effect size.
Group treatments are as effective as individual therapy or medications, and are likely more cost effective. However group therapy is more complicated to practice and to study. Burlingame and colleagues suggest using empirically validated interventions, and ongoing assessment of client outcomes. They also suggest following the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA) practice guidelines (see the Resources page on our web site), that include best practices for creating a successful group, appropriately selecting clients, preparing clients for group, evidence based interventions, and ethics issues related to group practice. Finally, Burlingame and colleagues emphasize using AGPA recommended measures and resources in developing and assessing a therapy group. These include: (1) group selection and group preparation which may involve handouts for group leaders and members about what to expect and how to get the most from group therapy; (2) assessing group processes repeatedly during group therapy using measures like the Therapeutic Factors Inventory or the Working Alliance Inventory; and (3) measuring client outcomes by using an instrument like the Outcome Questionnaire-45. Repeated measurement and feedback of processes and outcomes to the therapist may improve the group’s effectiveness.