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
Long-Term Effects of Psychotherapy for Depression
Steinert, C., Hofmann, M., Kruse, J., & Leichsenring, F. (2014). Relapse rates after psychotherapy for depression - stable long term effects? A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2014.06.043
As I reported in the June 2014 Blog depression is the most highly prevalent of the mental disorders with a lifetime prevalence of about 16%. It is responsible for enormous personal and economic burden for individuals and their families. Depression can occur as a single episode, however recurrence of depressive episodes can range from about 35% to 85% of those who were depressed. About 10% of cases experience chronic depression. Studies report that chronic or severe depression result in a lower response to interventions, including psychotherapy. Meta analytic research shows that a number of psychotherapeutic interventions are equally effective for treating depression (see also the July 2014 Blog). However, all of these meta analytic reviews of the effects of psychotherapy for depression referred to studies demonstrating short or medium term effectiveness. There are very few studies that report long term effectiveness of any type of treatment (psychological or pharmacological) for depression. This is a problem given the fluctuating and sometimes chronic course of the disorder. Randomized controlled trials of psychotherapy are expensive and time consuming, and collecting follow up data is difficult. And so it is not surprising that few studies assess outcomes after one or two years post treatment. Steinert and colleagues conducted a meta analysis looking specifically at studies that documented long term (i.e., greater than 2 years) post psychotherapy outcomes for depression. (A note on meta analyses: Meta analyses are a set of procedures that allow one to statistically combine the effects of many studies in order to estimate the average effect across many studies and participants. Meta analyses produce much more reliable results than any single study can produce, and so meta analyses are the best way of summarizing research to affect practice). Steinert and colleagues found 11 studies of 966 patients that reported outcomes beyond 2 years post psychotherapy. Six of the studies compared psychotherapy to another intervention (e.g., medications, treatment as usual, clinical management). The authors found that 40% of patients treated with psychotherapy had at least one relapse in a follow up period averaging about 4 years. Compared to non-psychotherapy interventions psychotherapy had a significantly lower likelihood of experiencing a relapse. Despite the positive long term outcomes of psychotherapy for depression, the authors noted that there was a great deal of inconsistency across studies (i.e., hetereogeneity), which lowers ones confidence in the reliability of these findings.
There are very few studies of long term (> 2 years post treatment) outcomes of psychotherapy for depression. In the June and August PPRNet Blogs, I reported on large scale worldwide reviews that indicate how pervasive depression can be, and how detrimental depression is to health and well being. Depression can be recurrent and chronic for some, so demonstrating long term outcomes is important. On the positive side, psychotherapy results in 60% of individuals not experiencing relapses 4 years post treatment, and psychotherapy resulted better long term outcomes than non-psychotherapy interventions. However, having so few studies that assess long term outcomes reduces our confidence in these findings. A number of psychotherapies including cognitive behavioral therapies, psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and others are effective for treating depression.
Long-Term Outcome of Psychodynamic Therapy and CBT in Social Anxiety Disorder
Leichsenring, F., Salzer, S., Beutel, M.E., Herpertz, S., Hiller, W. et al. (2014). Long-term outcome of psychodynamic therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy in social anxiety disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, Advance online publication: doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13111514.
Social anxiety disorder is a highly prevalent mental disorder, with lifetime prevalence of about 12% in the population. As Leichsenring and colleagues note, the disorder has an early onset and can have a chronic course leading to many psychosocial impairments. Also, social anxiety disorder often is comorbid with depression. There is good evidence for the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for social anxiety disorder and some evidence for psychodynamic therapy (PDT), but most studies have only assessed short term outcomes. In this large mulit-center randomized controlled trial comparing CBT and PDT for social phobia, Leichsenring and colleagues report on outcomes up to 2 years post treatment. The study had 416 adult patients randomly assigned to one of the treatments, and 79 randomly assigned to a waiting list. Outcomes were reported at post, 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months post treatment, and included remission of social phobia, depression levels, and interpersonal problem scores. The CBT intervention for social phobia was based on the model by Clark and Wells. The PDT was based on Luborsky’s model but specifically adapted for social phobia. Participants received 25 sessions of individual therapy, and therapists received advanced training in the models. CBT resulted in significantly greater remission of social phobia than PDT at post treatment, but the difference was small. Remission rates at 6, 12, and 24 months post treatment were not different between treatments. At 2 years post treatment 39% of those receiving CBT and 38% of those receiving PDT no longer had clinical symptoms of social phobia. Results were similar for interpersonal problems in which CBT showed an earlier response, but the two treatments were equivalent at each follow up. Depression scores improved for both interventions at post and follow ups.
The findings of this large study suggest that both CBT and PDT are effective treatments for social phobia. Although CBT had a small advantage at post treatment, PDT appeared to have an “incubation effect” in which patients continued to work on interpersonal problems and symptoms of social phobia over the longer term. Despite these positive outcomes, Leichsenring and colleagues suggest that there remains room for improvement in treating social phobia. Those who do not respond to these interventions may require different forms of treatment that is more specific, intense, or of longer duration. Leichsenring and colleagues also suggest integrating elements of the effective treatments within a single protocol. Although intuitively appealing, this integrated approach has not been tested.
Efficacy and Effectiveness of Psychotherapy
Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change: The Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change is perhaps the most important compendium of psychotherapy research covering a large number of research areas. The Handbook is updated approximately every 10 years, and the most recent 6th edition was published in January 2013. In the coming months I will review one chapter a month in addition to commenting on psychotherapy research articles. Book chapters have more restrictive copy right rules about distributing content, so I will not provide author email addresses for these chapters. If you are interested, you can view the table of contents on Amazon.
Lambert, M.J. (2013). The efficacy and effectiveness of psychotherapy. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.) Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behaviour change (6th ed.), pp169-218. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
This comprehensive chapter in the Handbook reviews research on the efficacy and effectiveness of psychotherapy. Lambert’s reviews focus on meta-analyses, which is a way of summarizing effect sizes in a research area. The bottom line is that psychotherapy is effective so that 40% to 60% of clients show substantial benefit in controlled research trials, though the effect is likely smaller in routine practice. Concurrently, a consistent proportion of adults (5% to 10%) deteriorate during psychotherapy. Patients who receive formal treatment are better off than those who receive no treatment, and bona fide treatments are superior to control conditions that provide only some aspects of effective treatment. When psychotherapy is offered by skilful therapists, on average clients experience appreciable gains and return to normal functioning. Fifty percent of patients achieve clinically significant gains after 8 sessions, and 50% achieve recovery after about 20 sessions of psychotherapy. The effects of psychotherapy tend to be long lasting. For example, only 25% treated depressed patients relapse, whereas 50% of those who receive antidepressants relapse. Research continues to support those therapies that have been rigorously tested, and differences in effectiveness between therapy types (e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic, interpersonal, etc.) tend to be small or negligible for many disorders. Cognitive behavioural therapy is still the most tested therapy modality, though other treatments are also accumulating evidence of efficacy. Treatment is likely facilitated by a therapeutic relationship that is characterized by trust, understanding, acceptance, kindness, and warmth. The effect of the therapist providing the therapy is at least as large as the effect of different therapy techniques. That is, some therapists are unusually effective, whereas others may not help the majority of patients who seek their services. Continuous monitoring of outcomes and providing regular feedback to the therapist improves the therapy’s effectiveness.
Providers and patients can be assured that a broad range of formally defined and tested psychotherapies when provided by skilful therapists are likely to result in appreciable gains in clients including a return to normal functioning. Therapy relationships characterized by trust, understanding, acceptance, and warmth can greatly facilitate change in depression, anxiety, inadequacy, and inner conflicts. When making a decision about which therapy to choose, clients would be wise to consider the therapist as a person at least as much as the type of therapy being offered. Treatment efforts should be based on the best evidence available for treatment types, therapist behaviors, and relationship factors. Routinely monitoring the effects of therapy with each patient will give the therapist ongoing information about their effectiveness and may improve their patients’ outcomes.