Reflective-functioning during the process and in relation to outcome in cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and brief psychodynamic

Abstract: The objective of this work was to investigate reflective-functioning (RF) as a measure of process in two independent studies that included three types of brief psychotherapy. RF is defined as the ability to recognize the existence and nature of mental processes taking place in the self and in others (e.g., intentions, beliefs, desires, and wishes). Theorists have suggested the ability for RF is crucial for predicting social causality and low RF has been found related to mental disorders. It has recently been suggested in the literature that improved ability for RF might be an important component of successful psychotherapy outcome, especially with respect to achieving structuralchange. RF was in this work investigated during the process through discourse analysis of the patients’ narratives of self-other interactions in the treatment sessions. The Psychotherapy Process Q-set (PQS) was implemented in order to isolate specific components of the process (process correlates) that identified high and low RF and to investigate the links between the process correlates and outcome. The first study investigated 29 cases of cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT) and 35 cases of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) with an average treatment length of 16.2 sessions in a sample from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) randomized clinical trial Treatment of Depression Collaborative Research Program (TDCRP). The sample in the first study consisted of 128 sessions in total, were one session from the early part (on average the 4th session) and one session in the later part of the treatment (on average the 12th session) were rated for RF. The second study investigated a sample of 30 cases of brief psychodynamic psychotherapy (BPDT) with an average treatment length of 15.8 sessions in a naturalistic designand obtained from the Mount Zion Psychotherapy Research Group. In total, the second study included 90 sessions of BPDT, and RF was assessed during the 1st, the 5th, and the 14th session of each treatment. The results from these two studies suggested that the patients’ ability for RF, as measured through the discourse from therapy sessions, is stable (in CBT and BPDT) or decreased(IPT) during the treatments. Furthermore, the process correlates defining high RF had a relation with good outcome, and process correlates defining low RF had a relation with poor outcome.The process correlates identified during the PQS-analysis suggested that both high and low RF was linked with personality characteristics in the patients. For example, high RF was linked to patients’ ability for introspection, expression of negative emotions, and commitment to treatment.Low RF was linked to patients’ expression of passivity, defensiveness, and suspiciousness. This work supported theorists’ suggestions that brief treatments are supportive in their nature and therefore do not promote structural changes (e.g., changes in RF). It is suggested that the abilityfor RF as assessed pre-treatment might be a useful predictor for success in brief psychotherapy and could therefore be used as a patient inclusion criteria for such treatments.