New Research To Refine Approaches In Psychotherapy

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2008-09-08 04:37

Psychotherapy is a crucial part of treatment for many mental disorders, but it can be difficult to identify the right approach for an individual. To that end, NIMH is funding eight new projects designed to evaluate, refine and improve psychotherapy-based treatments. Projects range from developing and piloting novel approaches for treating specific mental disorders, to conducting large, multi-site clinical trials to test treatments and treatment combinations for both adults and children.

The new grants are described below.

* Barbara Stanley, Ph.D., of Columbia University, will build upon previously reported studies that found a combination of a moderate dose of the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac)—a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)—and a form of psychotherapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can reduce suicidal and self-harming behavior in borderline personality disorder. In this study, Stanley will compare a brief version of DBT with a standard medication regimen of antidepressants. She will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, behavioral observations and other methods to evaluate changes in emotion regulation and impulsivity, two key components of borderline personality disorder.

* Shannon Dorsey, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, will develop and pilot test a novel combination of trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and an "engagement intervention." The program is designed to help foster children with mental health problems overcome the effects of trauma with the active participation of their foster parents. To increase the likelihood of success, the program will apply techniques to ensure foster parents remain engaged and interested in the children's treatment.

* Philip Kendall, Ph.D., of Temple University, will evaluate a brief form of CBT for children ages seven to 13 diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The eight-week program will be pared down to include only the components considered the most critical of a typical 16-week CBT program. The 20 children involved in the study will be evaluated before and after treatment, and will undergo follow-up evaluations at two months and four months after the end of the program. If the treatment is effective, it could lead to reduced treatment costs and allow trained therapists to increase the number of patients they can treat.

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