The Temporal Associations of Therapeutic Alliance and Manual Adherence With Depressive Symptom Change in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adult Outpatient Major Depression

Frank J. Don*, Ellen Driessen, Jaap Peen, Jan Spijker, Robert J. DeRubeis, Matthijs Blankers, Jack J.M. Dekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: The therapeutic alliance is considered an important causal agent of psychotherapy efficacy. However, studies in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression have suggested that alliance might be more of a consequence rather than a cause of depressive symptom change, while adherence to CBT specific techniques was found to be associated with subsequent depression change. We aimed to add to this body of literature by assessing the temporal associations of both therapeutic alliance and manual adherence with depressive symptom change in a relatively large sample of depressed adult outpatients over the full course of CBT. Methods: Adults with a major depressive episode (n = 98) participating in a randomized clinical trial were offered 22 weeks of CBT and rated the Penn Helping Alliance Questionnaire (HAq-I) at weeks 5 and 22. Therapists rated their adherence to the CBT manual after each session and observers assessed the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores at weeks 0, 5, 10, and 22. Linear mixed model analyses were used to assess the associations of alliance and adherence with prior and subsequent depression change. Results: HAq-I Relationship and manual adherence ratings were not significantly associated with prior nor with subsequent depression change (p > 0.14). Prior depression change was associated with the HAq-I subscale Perceived helpfulness at the end of treatment (r = 0.30, CI = 0.03–0.56, p = 0.03). Conclusion: We were not able to replicate prior depression change in CBT for depression to be associated with improved quality of the therapeutic alliance when using a more “pure” measure of the therapeutic relationship. Limitations of this study include the subjective alliance and adherence assessments. Our findings indicate the need to appropriately distinguish between the perceived helpfulness and the relationship factors when examining therapeutic alliance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number602294
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Volume11
Issue numberJanuary
Early online date13 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • depression
  • manual adherence
  • temporal associations
  • therapeutic alliance

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