Treatment Expectancy and Working Alliance in Pharmacotherapy as Predictors of Outcomes in Complicated Grief

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Objective: Nonspecific factors, such as treatment outcome expectancy and working alliance, can influence treatment outcome. No studies to date have examined the role of expectancy and alliance on pharmacotherapy outcomes in individuals with complicated grief (CG). Method: This secondary analysis of a larger randomized, control trial (RCT) examined the relationship between pharmacotherapy expectancy and alliance on treatment outcome in adults with CG who were participating in a multisite, double-blind, RCT examining the efficacy of citalopram and complicated grief treatment (CGT). Participants (n = 202) were randomized to one of four treatment conditions: citalopram (CIT), placebo (PBO), CGT + citalopram (CGT + CIT), or CGT + placebo (CGT + PBO). Results: Pharmacotherapy outcome expectancy and working alliance were higher among individuals randomized to CGT + CIT and CGT + PBO compared with CIT or PBO without CGT. Pharmacotherapy outcome expectancy was higher at Week 2 among individuals who ultimately responded to treatment compared with those who did not and among those who remained in treatment compared with those who dropped out. In contrast, working alliance did not correlate with dropout or treatment outcomes in pharmacotherapy. Conclusions: Expectancy for medication was higher among individuals randomized to receive CGT. Clinicians should assess symptoms and expectancies in the first weeks of treatment because these could be early markers of drop out and treatment response.

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