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
Patient Preference for Psychological vs Pharmacologic Treatment of Mental Disorders
McHugh, K.R., Whitton, S.W., Peckham, A.D., Welge, J.A., & Otto, M.W. (2013). Patient preference for psychological vs pharmacological treatment of psychiatric disorders: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 74, 595-602.
For the most part psychotherapy and pharmacological interventions have equivalent positive effects on depression in the short term, and psychotherapy has better outcomes in the long term (see my May, 2013 blog). There is also evidence that the effects of medications for depression are overestimated (also in the May 2013 blog). Despite all of this evidence, psychotherapy use has remained the same or declined slightly over the past 10 years (currently at about 3.4% of the population), whereas medication use for depression has doubled to over 10% of the population. At the same time, guidelines for evidenced based practice emphasize incorporating patient preferences when there is an absence of evidence-based decision rules for treatment selection. Providing patients with their preferred treatment is associated with better treatment uptake and outcomes (see June, 2013 blog). McHugh and colleagues conducted a meta analysis to review the literature on patient preferences for psychological versus pharmacological interventions for mental health disorders among adults. They included studies with treatment and non-treatment seeking samples of patients with a variety of disorders. (A quick note about meta-analysis. Meta analysis is a way of statistically combining the effect sizes from a number of studies into a common metric so that an average effect size can be calculated. Meta analysis is now the standard by which studies are reviewed. Meta analysis results are much more reliable than any single study and so represent the best way to inform clinical practice from research findings). McHugh and colleagues identified 34 studies representing over 90,000 participants. Most studies were of depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. When given a preference, 75% of participants preferred psychotherapy over medication to treat their mental health problem. In treatment seeking samples, the percentage was lower at 69%, but still significantly in favour of psychotherapy. Younger people and women were more likely to prefer psychotherapy, though the findings still showed a preference for psychotherapy among older people and men. The availability of combining psychotherapy and medication did not affect the results, so that even when given the option of both psychotherapy and medication people still preferred psychotherapy alone.
In all subsamples, participants were 3 times more likely to prefer psychotherapy to medication for their mental disorder. Patient preference for treatment is a core component of evidence based mental health practice that improves outcome and reduces drop outs. Without evidence for superiority for one treatment over another, patients should be given their preference, and on average patients overwhelmingly prefer psychotherapy. To optimize outcomes in clinical settings, providers should consider patient preferences, including their preference for psychotherapy over medication.
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Client Preferences for Psychotherapy
Swift, J. K., Callahan, J. L., Ivanovic, M., & Kominiak, N. (2013, March 11). Further examination of the psychotherapy preference effect: A meta-regression analysis. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031423
Client preferences consist of preferences regarding the type of treatment offered (e.g., preference for psychotherapy or medication, preference for a behavioral approach to treatment or an insight oriented one), desires for a certain type of therapist or provider (e.g., preference for an older therapist, a female provider, or a therapist who has a nurturing personality style), and preferences about what roles and behaviors will take place in session (e.g., preference for the therapist to take a listening role or an advice giving role). In a previously published meta analysis Swift and colleagues (2011) reviewed data from 35 studies that compared preference-matched and non-matched clients. A small but significant preference outcome effect was found, indicating that preference-matched clients show greater improvements over the course of therapy, and that clients whose preferences were not matched were almost twice as likely to discontinue treatment prematurely. In this follow up meta regression study, Swift and colleagues assessed whether preference accommodation is more or less important for types of disorders, types of treatments, or different demographics like sex or age. (Meta regression involves accumulating data from across many studies to assess predictors [e.g., sex, age, diagnosis, treatment type, etc.] of the preference effect). For example, some research has indicated that men prefer therapists with more feminine traits and that men prefer pharmacological interventions. But does accommodating these preferences affect outcomes and drop out rates? Is matching preferences essential for younger clients? Is matching preferences more important for women or ethnic minorities? The authors analysed data from 33 studies representing 6,058 clients to address some of these questions. The only variable that predicted the influence that preferences have on rates of premature termination was the length of the intervention. That is, it may be more important to accommodate client preferences for briefer therapies. Perhaps, as clients continue in therapy for longer durations, other variables such as the therapeutic alliance play a bigger role in determining whether or not one drops out prematurely. It is also possible that as treatment continues, clients may experience a shift in preferences to more closely match the treatment conditions that they were given. Once this shift in preferences has occurred, preferences are no longer mismatched, and the risk of dropping out may be diminished.
This study provides evidence that incorporating client preferences may be important for all types of clients. Generally, when client preferences are accommodated, clients show greater improvements while in treatment and are less likely to discontinue the intervention prematurely. As much as is practical, practitioners might collaboratively work with clients to identify what preferences they hold for treatment, and to discuss those preferences in the context of what is the most effective treatment that is available. This is particularly important for psychotherapies of shorter duration..
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