BACKGROUND: Despite long-standing calls to disseminate evidence-based treatments for generalized anxiety (GAD), modest progress has been made in the study of how such treatments should be implemented. The primary objective of this study was to test three competing strategies on how to implement a cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) for out-patients with GAD (i.e., comparison of one compensation vs. two capitalization models).
METHODS: For our three-arm, single-blinded, randomized controlled trial (implementation of CBT for GAD [IMPLEMENT]), we recruited adults with GAD using advertisements in high-circulation newspapers to participate in a 14-session cognitive behavioral treatment (Mastery of your Anxiety and Worry, MAW-packet). We randomly assigned eligible patients using a full randomization procedure (1:1:1) to three different conditions of implementation: adherence priming (compensation model), which had a systematized focus on patients' individual GAD symptoms and how to compensate for these symptoms within the MAW-packet, and resource priming and supportive resource priming (capitalization model), which had systematized focuses on patients' strengths and abilities and how these strengths can be capitalized within the same packet. In the intention-to-treat population an outcome composite of primary and secondary symptoms-related self-report questionnaires was analyzed based on a hierarchical linear growth model from intake to 6-month follow-up assessment. This trial is registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (identifier: NCT02039193) and is closed to new participants.
FINDINGS: From June 2012 to Nov. 2014, from 411 participants that were screened, 57 eligible participants were recruited and randomly assigned to three conditions. Forty-nine patients (86%) provided outcome data at post-assessment (14% dropout rate). All three conditions showed a highly significant reduction of symptoms over time. However, compared with the adherence priming condition, both resource priming conditions indicated faster symptom reduction. The observer ratings of a sub-sample of recorded videos (n = 100) showed that the therapists in the resource priming conditions conducted more strength-oriented interventions in comparison with the adherence priming condition. No patients died or attempted suicide.
INTERPRETATION: To our knowledge, this is the first trial that focuses on capitalization and compensation models during the implementation of one prescriptive treatment packet for GAD. We have shown that GAD related symptoms were significantly faster reduced by the resource priming conditions, although the limitations of our study included a well-educated population. If replicated, our results suggest that therapists who implement a mental health treatment for GAD might profit from a systematized focus on capitalization models.
FUNDING: Swiss Science National Foundation (SNSF-Nr. PZ00P1_136937/1) awarded to CF.