Physiological and behavioral indices of emotion dysregulation as predictors of outcome from cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy for anxiety

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APA Citation: 

Davies, C. D., Niles, A. N., Pittig, A., Arch, J. J., & Craske, M. G. (2015). Physiological and behavioral indices of emotion dysregulation as predictors of outcome from cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy for anxiety. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 46, 35-43.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
Article
Language: 
English
Keyword(s): 
Cognitive behavioral therapy; Acceptance and commitment therapy; Treatment outcome; Heart rate variability; Behavioral avoidance
Abstract: 

Background and objectives

Identifying for whom and under what conditions a treatment is most effective is an essential step toward personalized medicine. The current study examined pre-treatment physiological and behavioral variables as predictors and moderators of outcome in a randomized clinical trial comparing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for anxiety disorders.

Methods

Sixty individuals with a DSM-IV defined principal anxiety disorder completed 12 sessions of either CBT or ACT. Baseline physiological and behavioral variables were measured prior to entering treatment. Self-reported anxiety symptoms were assessed at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 6- and 12-month follow-up from baseline.

Results

Higher pre-treatment heart rate variability was associated with worse outcome across ACT and CBT. ACT outperformed CBT for individuals with high behavioral avoidance. Subjective anxiety levels during laboratory tasks did not predict or moderate treatment outcome.

Limitations

Due to small sample sizes of each disorder, disorder-specific predictors were not tested. Future research should examine these predictors in larger samples and across other outcome variables.

Conclusions

Lower heart rate variability was identified as a prognostic indicator of overall outcome, whereas high behavioral avoidance was identified as a prescriptive indicator of superior outcome from ACT versus CBT. Investigation of pre-treatment physiological and behavioral variables as predictors and moderators of outcome may help guide future treatment-matching efforts.

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