Although cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy (PDT) are both effective treatments for mental disorders, they show clear dissimilarities concerning their therapeutic models and treatment rationales.
To determine the effectiveness of systematic treatment selection (STS) to CBT or PDT in a mental healthcare setting compared with a control procedure of random treatment selection (RTS).
A randomised controlled trial in a consecutive sample of 291 in-patients with at least one ICD-10 mental disorder was performed. The primary outcome was symptom severity (General Severity Index of the Symptom Checklist-14) at 6-month follow-up. Health-related quality of life was the secondary outcome, determined using the Short Form-8.
Analyses revealed no general effect for systematic treatment selection. However, there was a differential effect: systematic selection resulted in a better longer-term outcome for PDT, but not for CBT; STS-PDT patients showed a significantly larger reduction in symptom severity than RTS-PDT patients. This difference was not observed in CBT.
Since systematic treatment selection seems to be able to optimise treatment outcome, at least for PDT, pursuing systematic treatment assignment strategies in mental healthcare settings is a worthwhile endeavour.