Identifying Who Benefits Most From Supportive Versus Expressive Techniques in Psychotherapy for Depression: Moderators of Within- Versus Between-Individual Effects

Sigal Zilcha-Mano, Christian A. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: A recent randomized controlled trial (RCT) indicated that individuals with higher levels of attachment anxiety exhibited better treatment outcomes in supportive-expressive therapy (SET) relative to supportive therapy (ST). But to gain insight into within-patient therapeutic changes, a within-individual design is required. The present study contrasts previous findings based on theory-driven between-patient moderators with data-driven moderators of within-patient processes to investigate whether findings converge or diverge across these two approaches. Method: We used data of 118 patients from the pilot and active phases of a recent RCT for patients with major depressive disorder, comparing ST with SET, a timelimited psychodynamic therapy. The predefined primary outcome measure was the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Supportive versus expressive techniques were rated based on patients’ end-of-session perspective. We compared previous findings based on moderators of between-patient effects with a data-driven approach for identifying moderators of within-patient effects of techniques on subsequent outcome. Results: After false discovery rate corrections, of 10 preselected moderators, patients’ attachment anxiety and domineering style remained significant. Of these, bootstrap resampling revealed significant differences between ST and SET techniques for the attachment anxiety moderator: Those with higher attachment anxiety benefited more from greater use of ST than SET techniques in a particular session, as evidenced by lower levels of symptoms at the subsequent session. Conclusions: Our within-individual findings diverge from previously published between-individual analyses. This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the importance of complementing between-individuals with within-individual analyses to achieve better understanding of who benefits most from specific treatment techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Early online date7 Dec 2023
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - 7 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association. All Rights Reserved.

Keywords

  • moderators
  • personalized psychotherapy
  • precision medicine
  • process psychotherapy research
  • therapeutic techniques

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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