The role of early symptom trajectories and pretreatment variables in predicting treatment response to cognitive behavioral therapy

Cara C. Lewis, Anne D. Simons, Hyoun K. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Research has focused on 2 different approaches to answering the question, "Which clients will respond to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression?" One approach focuses on rates of symptom change within the 1st few weeks of treatment, whereas the 2nd approach looks to pretreatment client variables (e.g., hopelessness) to identify clients who are more or less likely to respond. The current study simultaneously examines these 2 lines of research (i.e., early symptom change and pretreatment variables) on the prediction of treatment outcome to determine the incremental utility of each potential predictor. Method: The sample consists of 173 clients (66.47% female, 92.49% Caucasian), 18-64 years of age (M = 27.94, SD = 11.42), receiving treatment for depression and anxiety disorders in a CBT-oriented psychology training clinic. Results: The rate of change in depressive symptom severity from baseline over the 1st 5 treatment sessions significantly predicted treatment outcome. A contemplative orientation to change and medication status positively predicted early symptom change, whereas student status negatively predicted early symptom change. Higher levels of baseline anxiety, precontemplative readiness to change, and global functioning predicted lower levels of depressive symptom severity at termination. Conclusions: The findings suggest achieving rapid symptom change early in treatment may be integral to overall success. As such, therapists may wish to target factors such as readiness to change to potentially maximize rapid rate of symptom change and subsequent treatment outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-534
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Aug 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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