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Therapist competence matters -- and more for some patients than others
Date:7/6/2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio While studies have shown that cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for depression, it has still not been clear the role therapists' training and expertise plays in making treatment successful.

A new study finds that depressed patients show more symptom improvement when their therapists more competently follow the guidelines for delivering cognitive therapy.

The study also suggests therapist competence may be a particularly important determinant of outcome for some patients. Researchers found that therapist competence was more strongly related to symptom improvement in patients who suffered from anxiety as well as depression, and for those who first experienced depression at an early age.

"People with depression who don't have complicating issues like anxiety are fairly likely to show benefit even if they don't see the most highly rated therapists," said Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

"But people who have substantial anxiety or a history of depression that began at an early age really do best if they have the most highly rated treatment."

While the need for competent therapists might seem obvious, Strunk said there have been very few studies looking at whether the competence with which the therapy is delivered predicts subsequent outcomes. Studies that have examined the issue have tended to examine the relation of ratings of therapists and the overall outcomes of their patients. But that ignores the possibility that the competence of the therapists may not have been responsible for their patients' improvement.

"Once patients have improved, they might help to make their therapists look more competent. If so, this could explain the competence-outcome relation. So, we wanted to see if we could rule out that possibility by examining whether competence predicted subsequent outcomes," Strunk said.

The research app
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Contact: Daniel Strunk
Strunk.20@osu.edu
614-688-4891
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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