Therapeutic Alliance in Face-to-Face and Telephone-Administered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

New Study (1)

Telephone-administered therapies have emerged as an alternative method of delivery for the treatment of depression, yet concerns persist that the use of the telephone may have a deleterious effect on therapeutic alliance. The purpose of this study was to compare therapeutic alliance in clients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression by telephone (T-CBT) or face-to-face (FtF-CBT).

We randomized 325 participants to receive 18 sessions of T-CBT or FtF-CBT. The Working Alliance Inventory (WAI) was administered at Weeks 4 and 14. Depression was measured during treatment and over 1 year posttreatment follow-up using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression and Patient Health Questionnaire-9.

There were no significant differences in client or therapist WAI between T-CBT or FtF-CBT (Cohen’s f² ranged from 0 to .013, all ps > .05). All WAI scores predicted depression end of treatment outcomes (Cohen’s f² ranged from .009 to .06, all ps < .02). The relationship between the WAI and depression outcomes did not vary by treatment group (Cohen’s f² ranged from 0 to .004, ps > .07). The WAI did not significantly predict depression during posttreatment follow-up (all ps > .12).

Results from this analysis do not support the hypothesis that the use of the telephone to provide CBT reduces therapeutic alliance relative to FtF-CBT.

Stiles-Shields, C., Kwasny, M.J., Cai, X., & Mohr, D.C. (2014). Therapeutic alliance in face-to-face and telephone-administered cognitive behavioral therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(2), 349-354. doi: 10.1037/a0035554.

Resting-state connectivity predictors of response to psychotherapy in major depressive disorder.

New Study (1)Abstract
Despite the heterogeneous symptom presentation and complex etiology of major depressive disorder (MDD), functional neuroimaging studies have shown with remarkable consistency that dysfunction in mesocorticolimbic brain systems are central to the disorder. Relatively less research has focused on the identification of biological markers of response to antidepressant treatment that would serve to improve the personalized delivery of empirically supported antidepressant interventions. In the present study, we investigated whether resting-state functional brain connectivity (rs-fcMRI) predicted response to Behavioral Activation Treatment for Depression, an empirically validated psychotherapy modality designed to increase engagement with rewarding stimuli and reduce avoidance behaviors. Twenty-three unmedicated outpatients with MDD and 20 matched nondepressed controls completed rs-fcMRI scans after which the MDD group received an average of 12 sessions of psychotherapy. The mean change in Beck Depression Inventory-II scores after psychotherapy was 12.04 points, a clinically meaningful response. Resting-state neuroimaging data were analyzed with a seed-based approach to investigate functional connectivity with four canonical resting-state networks: the default mode network, the dorsal attention network, the executive control network, and the salience network. At baseline, the MDD group was characterized by relative hyperconnectivity of multiple regions with precuneus, anterior insula, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex seeds and by relative hypoconnectivity with intraparietal sulcus, anterior insula, and dACC seeds. Additionally, connectivity of the precuneus with the left middle temporal gyrus and connectivity of the dACC with the parahippocampal gyrus predicted the magnitude of pretreatment MDD symptoms. Hierarchical linear modeling revealed that response to psychotherapy in the MDD group was predicted by pretreatment connectivity of the right insula with the right middle temporal gyrus and the left intraparietal sulcus with the orbital frontal cortex. These results add to the nascent body of literature investigating pretreatment rs-fcMRI predictors of antidepressant treatment response and is the first study to examine rs-fcMRI predictors of response to psychotherapy.


Crowther, A., Smoski, M.J., Minkel, J., Moore, T., Gibbs, D., Petty, C., Dichter, G.S. (2015). Resting-state connectivity predictors of response to psychotherapy in major depressive disorder. Neuropsychopharmacology, 40, 1659-1673. doi: 10.038/npp205.12

Telephone-administered CBT Versus Face-to-Face CBT for Depressed Patients with Co-occurring Problematic Alcohol Use in Primary Care

This secondary analysis of a larger study compared adherence to telephone-administered cognitive-behavioral therapy (T-CBT) vs. face-to-face CBT and depression outcomes in depressed primary care patients with co-occurring problematic alcohol use. To our knowledge, T-CBT has never been directly compared to face-to-face CBT in such a sample of primary care patients. Participants were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to face-to-face CBT or T-CBT for depression. Participants receiving T-CBT (n = 50) and face-to-face CBT (n = 53) were compared at baseline, end of treatment (week 18), and three-month and six-month follow-ups. Face-to-face CBT and T-CBT groups did not significantly differ in age, sex, ethnicity, marital status, educational level, severity of depression, antidepressant use, and total score on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Face-to-face CBT and T-CBT groups were similar on all treatment adherence outcomes and depression outcomes at all time points. T-CBT and face-to-face CBT had similar treatment adherence and efficacy for the treatment of depression in depressed primary care patients with co-occurring problematic alcohol use. When targeting patients who might have difficulties in accessing care, primary care clinicians may consider both types of CBT delivery when treating depression in patients with co-occurring problematic alcohol use.

Kalapatapu, R. K., Ho, J., Cai, X., Vinogradov, S., Batki, S. L., & Mohr, D. C. (2014). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Depressed Primary Care Patients with Co-Occurring Problematic Alcohol Use: Effect of Telephone-Administered vs. Face-to-Face Treatment-A Secondary Analysis. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46, 2, 85-92.

Origins of Dr. Aaron Beck’s Theory of Depression

During a recent Beck Institute Workshop, Dr. Aaron Beck discusses the origins of his theory of depression. He then describes several research techniques he employed to test the psychoanalytic hypothesis that depression is caused by inverted hostility.

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Mental Imagery in Bipolar Affective Disorder versus Unipolar Depression during Times of ‘Positive’ Mood

OBJECTIVE: Compared to unipolar depression (UD), depressed mood in bipolar disorder (BD) has been associated with amplified negative mental imagery of the future (‘flashforwards’). However, imagery characteristics during positive mood remain poorly explored. We hypothesise first, that unlike UD patients, the most significant positive images of BD patients will be ‘flashforwards’ (rather than past memories). Second, that BD patients will experience more frequent (and more ‘powerful’) positive imagery as compared to verbal thoughts and third, that behavioural activation scores will be predicted by imagery variables in the BD group.

METHOD: BD (n=26) and UD (n=26) patients completed clinical and trait imagery measures followed by an Imagery Interview and a measure of behavioural activation.

RESULTS: Compared to UD, BD patients reported more ‘flashforwards’ compared to past memories and rated their ‘flashforwards’ as more vivid, exciting and pleasurable. Only the BD group found positive imagery more ‘powerful’, (preoccupying, ‘real’ and compelling) as compared to verbal thoughts. Imagery-associated pleasure predicted levels of drive and reward responsiveness in the BD group.

CONCLUSIONS: This study reveals BD patients experience positive ‘flashforward’ imagery in positive mood, with more intense qualities than UD patients. This could contribute to the amplification of emotional states and goal directed behaviour leading into mania, and differentiate BD from UD.

Ivins, A., Di, S. M., Close, H., Goodwin, G. M., & Holmes, E. (September 01, 2014). Mental imagery in bipolar affective disorder versus unipolar depression: Investigating cognitions at times of ‘positive’ mood. Journal of Affective Disorders, 166, 12, 234-242.

Pilot Study: Web-based CBT Adheres to Professional Practice Standards and Outcomes

Background: The primary objective of this pilot study was to demonstrate reliable adherence to a group cognitive behavioral (CBT) therapy protocol when delivered using on-line video conferencing as compared with face-to-face delivery of group CBT. A secondary aim was to show comparability of changes in subject depression inventory scores between on-line and face-to-face delivery of group CBT.

Methods: We screened 31 individuals, 18 of whom met the criteria for a DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition) diagnosis of mood and/or anxiety disorder. All qualifying participants had the necessary equipment (computer, webcam, Internet) for participation in the study, but could exercise their preference for either the on-line or face-to-face format. Eighteen completed the 13 weekly session intervention program (ten face-to-face; eight video conferencing). We coded adherence to protocol in both intervention formats and generated pre–post changes in scores on the Beck Depression Inventory Second Edition (BDI-II) for each participant.

Results: Application of the CBT protocol coding system showed reliable adherence to the group CBT intervention protocol in both delivery formats. Similarly, qualitative analysis of the themes in group discussion indicated that both groups addressed similar issues. Pre–post intervention scores for the BDI-II were comparable across the two delivery formats, with 60% of participants in each group showing a positive change in BDI-II severity classification (e.g., from moderate to low symptoms).

Conclusion: This pilot study demonstrates that group CBT could be delivered in a technology-supported environment (on-line video conferencing) and can meet the same professional practice standards and outcomes as face-to-face delivery of the intervention program.

Khatri, N., Marziali, E., Tchernikov, I., & Sheppard, N. (May 01, 2014). Comparing telehealth-based and clinic-based group cognitive behavioral therapy for adults with depression and anxiety: a pilot study. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 765.

CBT and Medication for Severe Mental Illness

In this video from a recent Beck Institute Workshop, Dr. Aaron Beck and Dr. Judith Beck discuss the effects of combining CBT and medication in the treatment of depression and schizophrenia. They also compare research findings on CBT treatment alone, medication alone, and a combination of CBT and medication among clients with severe depression and schizophrenia.

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Dr. Aaron Beck’s Transition from Psychoanalysis to Cognitive Theory

During a recent Beck Institute Workshop, Dr. Aaron Beck describes how he transitioned from psychoanalysis to cognitive theory. Dr. Beck explains that his transition period spanned two years and began when he discovered a lack of empirical evidence supporting psychoanalytic theory of depression. He subsequently began to question the effectiveness of psychoanalysis in the treatment of depression. In 1963, Dr. Beck published “Thinking and Depression: Idiosyncratic Content and Cognitive Distortions” in the Archives of General Psychiatry, widely recognized as his first publication on Cognitive Therapy.

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Cognitive Restructuring in CBT

Dr. Aaron Beck reviews cognitive restructuring with a depressed client during a recent Beck Institute Workshop. Dr. Beck describes how he helped the client evaluate evidence for and against his thoughts and his belief that he was a failure. He also explains how cognitive restructuring helps depressed clients access rational thinking that is typically blocked by their cognitive distortions.

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CBT is Effective for Treatment-Resistant Depression in Community Mental Health

State mental health systems have been leaders in the implementation of evidence-based approaches to care for individuals with severe mental illness. Numerous case studies of the wide-scale implementation of research-supported models such as integrated dual diagnosis treatment and assertive community treatment are documented. However, relatively few dissemination efforts have focused on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for individuals with major depression despite evidence indicating its efficacy with this population. A multi-site effectiveness trial of CBT was conducted within the Texas public mental health system. Eighty-three adults with major depression received CBT from community clinicians trained through a workshop and regular consultation with a master clinician. Outcomes were compared to a matched sample of individuals receiving pharmacotherapy. Outcome measures used included the quick inventory of depressive symptomatology and beck depression inventory. Individuals receiving CBT showed greater improvements in depression symptoms than those in the comparison group. Greater pre-treatment symptom severity predicted better treatment response, while the presence of comorbid personality disorders was associated with poorer outcomes.

Lopez, M. & Basco, M. (2014). Effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy in public mental health: comparison to treatment as usual for treatment-resistant depression. Administration and Policy in Mental Health Service and Research.  DOI:10.1007/s10488-014-0546-4