Early treatment response in psychotherapy for depression and personality disorder: links with core conflictual relationship themes
Objective: Depressed personality disorder patients showing an early rapid response (or sudden gain) in psychotherapy have better outcomes. Early responders are five times more likely to recover, despite equivalent ratings of working alliance. We explored core conflictual relationship themes (CCRTs) of early responders compared to others to further elucidate process-outcome links.
Method: Patients (N = 20) with diagnosed major depression and personality disorder received 16 weeks of psychodynamic therapy. Early response was defined as a 50% reduction in Beck Depression Inventory symptoms during the first six sessions. Transcripts of therapy session three for early responders (n = 10) and others (n = 10) were analyzed using the CCRT Leipzig/Ulm method, identifying 728 components scored by two independent judges.
Results: Relationship narratives showed CCRT-wish satisfaction was lower for those not having an early response, for both CCRT "Response of Other" and "Response of Self" components. These patients told narratives of others as more unreliable, aggressive, and less supportive, with less feelings of being loved and a lower experience of being self-determined.
Conclusions: Specific negative relationship patterns may inhibit the ability to benefit from both therapy and extra-therapy relationships, contributing to a slower treatment response.