Short-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized, Controlled Trial

Department of Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Giessen, Germany.
American Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 13.56). 08/2009; 166(8):875-81. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09030441
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT While several studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an efficacious treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, few studies have addressed the outcome of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, even though this treatment is widely used. The aim of this study was to compare short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy and CBT with regard to treatment outcome in generalized anxiety disorder.
Patients with generalized anxiety disorder according to DSM-IV were randomly assigned to receive either CBT (N=29) or short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (N=28). Treatments were carried out according to treatment manuals and included up to 30 weekly sessions. The primary outcome measure was the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, which was applied by trained raters blind to the treatment conditions. Assessments were carried out at the completion of treatment and 6 months afterward.
Both CBT and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy yielded significant, large, and stable improvements with regard to symptoms of anxiety and depression. No significant differences in outcome were found between treatments in regard to the primary outcome measure. These results were corroborated by two self-report measures of anxiety. In measures of trait anxiety, worry, and depression, however, CBT was found to be superior.
The results suggest that CBT and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy are beneficial for patients with generalized anxiety disorder. In future research, large-scale multicenter studies should examine more subtle differences between treatments, including differences in the patients who benefit most from each form of therapy.

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    ABSTRACT: There is ongoing debate about the efficacy of placebos in the treatment of mental disorders. In randomized control trials (RCTs) about the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, the administration of a psychological placebo or placement on a waiting list are the two most common control conditions. But there has never been a systematic comparison of the clinical effect of these different strategies. Compare the change in symptom severity among individuals treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, provided a psychological placebo, or placed on a waiting list using data from RCTs on generalized anxiety disorder. The following databases were searched for RCTs on generalized anxiety disorder: PubMed, PsycInfo, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library, CNKI, Chongqing VIP, Wanfang, Chinese Biological Medical Literature Database, and Taiwan Electronic Periodical Services. Studies were selected based on pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria and the quality of each included study - based on the risk of bias and the level of evidence - was formally assessed. Meta-analysis was conducted using RevMan5.3 and network meta-analyses comparing the three groups were conducted using R. Twelve studies with a combined sample size of 531 were included in the analysis. Compared to either control method (placebo or waiting list), cognitive behavioral therapy was more effective for generalized anxiety disorder. Provision of a psychological placebo was associated with a significantly greater reduction of symptoms than placement on a waiting list. Eight of the studies were classified as 'high risk of bias', and the overall level of evidence was classified as 'moderate', indicating that further research could change the overall results of the meta-analysis. RCTs about the treatment of generalized anxiety disorders are generally of moderate quality; they indicate the superiority of CBT but the results cannot, as yet, be considered robust. There is evidence of a non-negligible treatment effect of psychological placebos used as control conditions in research studies. This effect should be considered when designing and interpreting the results of randomized controlled trials about the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions.