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Psychotherapy integration under scrutiny: Investigating the impact of integrating emotion-focused components into a CBT-based approach: A study protocol of a randomized controlled trial

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Babl A., grosse Holtforth M., Heer S., Lin M., Stähli A., Holstein D., Belz M., Egenolf Y., Frischknecht E., Ramseyer F., Regli D., Schmied E., Flückiger C., Brodbeck J., Berger T., Caspar F.,
Project Design development in randomized clinical trials - Psychological treatment in generalized anxiety
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal BMC Psychiatry
Page(s) 1 - 15
Title of proceedings BMC Psychiatry
DOI 10.1186/s12888-016-1136-7

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


Background This currently recruiting randomized controlled trial investigates the effects of integrating components of Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) into Psychological Therapy (PT), an integrative form of cognitive-behavioral therapy in a manner that is directly mirroring common integrative practice in the sense of assimilative integration. Aims of the study are to understand how both, an existing therapy approach as well as the elements to be integrated, are affected by the integration and to clarify the role of emotional processing as a mediator of therapy outcome. Methods A total of 130 adults with a diagnosed unipolar depressive, anxiety or adjustment disorder (seeking treatment at a psychotherapy outpatient clinic) are randomized to either treatment as usual (PT) with integrated emotion-focused components (TAU + EFT) or PT (TAU). Primary outcome variables are psychopathology and symptom severity at the end of therapy and at follow up; secondary outcome variables are interpersonal problems, psychological wellbeing, quality of life, attainment of individual therapy goals, and emotional competency. Furthermore, process variables such as the quality of the therapeutic relationship are studied as well as aptitude-treatment interactions. Variables are assessed at baseline, after 8 and 16 sessions, at the end of therapy, after 25 ± 3 sessions, and at 6, 12 and 36 month follow-up. Underlying mechanisms of change are investigated. Statistical analyses will be conducted using the appropriate multilevel approaches, mainly two-level regression and growth analysis. Discussion The results of this study will indicate whether the integration of emotion-focused elements into treatment as usual increases the effectiveness of Psychological Therapy. If advantages are found, which may be limited to particular variables or subgroups of patients, recommendations for a systematic integration, and caveats if also disadvantages are detected, can be formulated. On a more abstract level, a cognitive behavioral (represented by PT) and humanistic/experiential (represented by EFT) approach will be integrated. It must be emphasized that mimicking common practice in the development and continued education of psychotherapists, EFT is not integrated as a whole, but only elements of EFT that are considered particularly important, and can be trained in an 8-day training plus supervision of therapies.