Research Setting Versus Clinic Setting: Which Produces Better Outcomes in Cognitive Therapy for Depression?
To compare the outcomes of cognitive therapy for depression under controlled and clinically representative conditions, while holding several therapist and clinical assessment factors constant. Treatment outcomes for a sample of 23 adults with a primary diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder who received cognitive therapy in an outpatient clinic were compared with outcomes of 18 clients who were treated in the cognitive therapy condition of a large, multi-site randomized clinical trial of treatments for depression. All participants had been treated by one of two therapists who served as clinicians in both settings. Individuals in the two samples were diagnostically and demographically similar (approximately 50 % Female, 83 % White). A variety of client characteristics, assessed prior to treatment, as well as the outcomes of treatment, were examined. Significantly superior treatment outcomes were observed in the individuals treated in the research study, relative to clients in the outpatient clinic, and the difference was not accounted for by intake characteristics. Individuals treated by the therapists in the RCT experienced almost three times as much improvement in depressive symptoms as clients seen in the outpatient setting. If replicated, the findings suggest that differences exist between treatment outcomes in research and outpatient settings and that these differences may not simply be due to therapist experience and training, or differences in patient populations. Future research should further examine the impact of fidelity monitoring, treatment expectation and motivation, and the duration and timing of treatment protocols on clinical outcomes.