Prediction and Moderation of Improvement in Cognitive-Behavioral and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Panic Disorder

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Objective: To identify variables predicting psychotherapy outcome for panic disorder or indicating which of 2 very different forms of psychotherapy—panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy (PFPP) or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)—would be more effective for particular patients. Method: Data were from 161 adults participating in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) including these psychotherapies. Patients included 104 women; 118 patients were White, 33 were Black, and 10 were of other races; 24 were Latino(a). Predictors/moderators measured at baseline or by Session 2 of treatment were used to predict change on the Panic Disorder Severity Scale (PDSS). Results: Higher expectancy for treatment gains (Credibility/Expectancy Questionnaire d = −1.05, CI95% [−1.50, −0.60]), and later age of onset (d = −0.65, CI95% [−0.98, −0.32]) were predictive of greater change. Both variables were also significant moderators: patients with low expectancy of improvement improved significantly less in PFPP than their counterparts in CBT, whereas this was not the case for patients with average or high levels of expectancy. When patients had an onset of panic disorder later in life (≥27.5 years old), they fared as well in PFPP as CBT. In contrast, at low and mean levels of onset age, CBT was the more effective treatment. Conclusions: Predictive variables suggest possibly fruitful foci for improvement of treatment outcome. In terms of moderation, CBT was the more consistently effective treatment, but moderators identified some patients who would do as well in PFPP as in CBT, thereby widening empirically supported options for treatment of this disorder.

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