One-session computer-based exposure treatment for spider-fearful individuals - Efficacy of a minimal self-help intervention in a randomised controlled trial

Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Basel, Missionsstrasse 60/62, CH-4055 Basel, Switzerland.
Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 2.23). 06/2011; 42(2):179-84. DOI: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2010.12.001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Computer-based self-help treatments have been proposed to provide greater access to treatment while requiring minimum input from a therapist. The authors employed a randomised controlled trial to investigate the efficacy of one-session computer-based exposure (CBE) as a self-help treatment for spider-fearful individuals. Spider-fearful participants in a CBE group underwent one 27-min session of standardised exposure to nine fear-eliciting spider pictures. Treatment outcome was compared to spider-fearful control participants exposed to nine neutral pictures. Fear reduction was quantified on a subjective level by the Fear of Spiders Questionnaire (FSQ) and complemented with a behavioural approach test (BAT). Results demonstrate that compared to control participants, CBE participants showed greater fear reduction from pre- to posttreatment on both the subjective level (FSQ) and the behavioural level (BAT). Moreover, in contrast to the control group, the obtained subjective fear reduction effect remained stable in the CBE group at 1-month follow-up. These findings highlight the role of computer-based self-help as a minimal but effective intervention to reduce fear of spiders.

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Available from: Frank H. Wilhelm, Feb 25, 2014
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    • "The absence of a clear clinical diagnosis for SP by means of a clinical interview in our sample of spider-fearful individuals might limit the validity of our findings. However, mean SPQ and FSQ scores in spider-fearful individuals were very high and correspond to clinical sample means (Pflugshaupt et al., 2007; Müller et al., 2011; Fisler et al., 2013; Gerdes and Alpers, 2014; Peperkorn et al., 2014; Soravia et al., 2014), suggesting that our results can be generalized to clinically significant spider phobia. Furthermore, a closer inspection of demographic data revealed that most of the spider-fearful participants indicated at least a moderate spider fear that was perceived as disturbing and accompanied by clear avoidance behavior in real life environment. "
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    ABSTRACT: Avoidance is considered as a central hallmark of all anxiety disorders. The acquisition and expression of avoidance, which leads to the maintenance and exacerbation of pathological fear is closely linked to Pavlovian and operant conditioning processes. Changes in conditionability might represent a key feature of all anxiety disorders but the exact nature of these alterations might vary across different disorders. To date, no information is available on specific changes in conditionability for disorder-irrelevant stimuli in specific phobia (SP). The first aim of this study was to investigate changes in fear acquisition and extinction in spider-fearful individuals as compared to non-fearful participants by using the de novo fear conditioning paradigm. Secondly, we aimed to determine whether differences in the magnitude of context-dependent fear retrieval exist between spider-fearful and non-fearful individuals. Our findings point to an enhanced fear discrimination in spider-fearful individuals as compared to non-fearful individuals at both the physiological and subjective level. The enhanced fear discrimination in spider-fearful individuals was neither mediated by increased state anxiety, depression, nor stress tension. Spider-fearful individuals displayed no changes in extinction learning and/or fear retrieval. Surprisingly, we found no evidence for context-dependent modulation of fear retrieval in either group. Here, we provide first evidence that spider-fearful individuals show an enhanced discriminative fear learning of phobia-irrelevant (de novo) stimuli. Our findings provide novel insights into the role of fear acquisition and expression for the development and maintenance of maladaptive responses in the course of SP.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 10/2014; 8:328. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00328 · 3.27 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems. They are chronic and unremitting. Effective treatments are available, but access to services is limited. Media-delivered behavioural and cognitive behavioural interventions (self-help) aim to deliver treatment with less input from professionals compared with traditional therapies. To assess the effects of media-delivered behavioural and cognitive behavioural therapies for anxiety disorders in adults. Published and unpublished studies were considered without restriction by language or date. The Cochrane Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Review Group's Specialized Register (CCDANCTR) was searched all years to 1 January 2013. The CCDANCTR includes relevant randomised controlled trials from the following bibliographic databases: The Cochrane Library (all years), EMBASE (1974 to date), MEDLINE (1950 to date) and PsycINFO (1967 to date). Complementary searches were carried out on Ovid MEDLINE (1950 to 23 February 2013) and PsycINFO (1987 to February, Week 2, 2013), together with International trial registries (the trials portal of the World Health Organization (ICTRP) and Reference lists from previous meta-analyses and reports of randomised controlled trials were checked, and authors were contacted for unpublished data. Randomised controlled trials of media-delivered behavioural or cognitive behavioural therapy in adults with anxiety disorders (other than post-traumatic stress disorder) compared with no intervention (including attention/relaxation controls) or compared with face-to-face therapy. Both review authors independently screened titles and abstracts. Study characteristics and outcomes were extracted in duplicate. Outcomes were combined using random-effects models, and tests for heterogeneity and for small study bias were conducted. We examined subgroup differences by type of disorder, type of intervention provided, type of media, and recruitment methods used. One hundred and one studies with 8403 participants were included; 92 studies were included in the quantitative synthesis. These trials compared several types of media-delivered interventions (with varying levels of support) with no treatment and with face-to-face interventions. Inconsistency and risk of bias reduced our confidence in the overall results. For the primary outcome of symptoms of anxiety, moderate-quality evidence showed medium effects compared with no intervention (standardised mean difference (SMD) 0.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.55 to 0.80; 72 studies, 4537 participants), and low-quality evidence of small effects favoured face-to-face therapy (SMD -0.23, 95% CI -0.36 to -0.09; 24 studies, 1360 participants). The intervention was associated with greater response than was seen with no treatment (risk ratio (RR) 2.34, 95% CI 1.81 to 3.03; 21 studies, 1547 participants) and was not significantly inferior to face-to-face therapy in these studies (RR 0.78, 95 % CI 0.56 to 1.09; 10 studies, 575 participants), but the latter comparison included versions of therapies that were not as comprehensive as those provided in routine clinical practice. Evidence suggested benefit for secondary outcome measures (depression, mental-health related disability, quality of life and dropout), but this evidence was of low to moderate quality. Evidence regarding harm was lacking. Self-help may be useful for people who are not able or are not willing to use other services for people with anxiety disorders; for people who can access it, face-to-face cognitive behavioural therapy is probably clinically superior. Economic analyses were beyond the scope of this review.Important heterogeneity was noted across trials. Recent interventions for specific problems that incorporate clinician support may be more effective than transdiagnostic interventions (i.e. interventions for multiple disorders) provided with no guidance, but these issues are confounded in the available trials.Although many small trials have been conducted, the generalisability of their findings is limited. Most interventions tested are not available to consumers. Self-help has been recommended as the first step in the treatment of some anxiety disorders, but the short-term and long-term effectiveness of media-delivered interventions has not been established. Large, pragmatic trials are needed to evaluate and to maximise the benefits of self-help interventions.
    Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) 09/2013; 9(9):CD005330. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD005330.pub4 · 6.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background Anxiety and related disorders are among the most common mental disorders, with lifetime prevalence reportedly as high as 31%. Unfortunately, anxiety disorders are under-diagnosed and under-treated. Methods These guidelines were developed by Canadian experts in anxiety and related disorders through a consensus process. Data on the epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment (psychological and pharmacological) were obtained through MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and manual searches (1980–2012). Treatment strategies were rated on strength of evidence, and a clinical recommendation for each intervention was made, based on global impression of efficacy, effectiveness, and side effects, using a modified version of the periodic health examination guidelines. Results These guidelines are presented in 10 sections, including an introduction, principles of diagnosis and management, six sections (Sections 3 through 8) on the specific anxiety-related disorders (panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder), and two additional sections on special populations (children/adolescents, pregnant/lactating women, and the elderly) and clinical issues in patients with comorbid conditions. Conclusions Anxiety and related disorders are very common in clinical practice, and frequently comorbid with other psychiatric and medical conditions. Optimal management requires a good understanding of the efficacy and side effect profiles of pharmacological and psychological treatments.
    BMC Psychiatry 07/2014; 14(Suppl 1):S1. DOI:10.1186/1471-244X-14-S1-S1 · 2.21 Impact Factor
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