Maximizing Psychotherapy Outcome beyond Evidence-Based Medicine

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Abstract

Despite evidence that psychotherapy has a positive impact on psychological disorders, 30% of patients fail to respond during clinical trials, and as many as 65% of patients in routine care leave treatment without a measured benefit. In addition, therapists appear to overestimate positive outcomes in their patients relative to measured outcomes and are particularly poor at identifying patients at risk for a negative outcome. These problems suggest the need for measuring and monitoring patient treatment response over the course of treatment while applying standardized methods of identifying at-risk cases. Computer-assisted methods for measuring, monitoring, identifying potential deteriorators, and providing feedback to clinicians are described along with a model that explains why feedback is likely to be beneficial to patients. The results of 12 clinical trials are summarized and suggest that deterioration rates can be substantially reduced in at-risk cases (from baseline rates of 21% down to 13%) and that recovery rates are substantially increased in this subgroup of cases (from a baseline of 20% up to 35%) when therapists are provided this information. When problem-solving methods are added to feedback, deterioration in at-risk cases is further reduced to 6% while recovery/improvement rates rise to about 50%. It is suggested that the feedback methods become a standard of practice. Such a change in patterns of care can be achieved through minimal modification to routine practice but may require discussions with patients about their clinical progress.

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