Background: The Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP) has been tailored specifically to the demands of patients with persistent depressive disorder (PDD). According to the CBASP model, PDD patients are supposed to live perceptually disconnected from their social environment, which consequently maintains depression. While initially developed as an individual treatment modality, the adaptation for group therapy yields an important interpersonal space. However, little is known about the specific factors that contribute to patients' benefit from the CBASP group modality.
Methods: The analyzed sample comprised N = 87 PDD patients who completed a 12 week multimodal inpatient treatment including 2 weekly CBASP-specific individual and group sessions, respectively, as well as CBASP-unspecific medical contacts, pharmacotherapy and complementary therapies. Group sessions included trainings in situational analysis and interpersonal skills. Interpersonal change over therapy was examined based on the patients' self-perceived interpersonal problems (IIP) and the impact messages as perceived by their individual therapists (IMI). Pre and post-treatment data were compared using within-sample t-tests. Additionally, patients evaluated CBASP group therapy on a feedback form. They were invited to reflect on individual benefits and its helpful and unhelpful aspects. Qualitative content analysis with inductive category development was used to analyze feedback. Inter-rater reliability was computed to confirm categories before summarizing the frequencies of reported factors.
Results: Self-perceived interpersonal distress significantly decreased over therapy. Patients reported reduced interpersonal problems and therapists reported more friendly and dominant impact messages. Interestingly, patients who showed a significant depressive symptom reduction described higher change scores. Regarding qualitative data, patients reported five main benefits from group therapy: Gain in social competence, self-confidence, self-reflection, interpersonal dynamics, and optimism/universality. Patients responding to CBASP identified significantly more factors than non-responders.
Conclusions: Compared to studies with individual CBASP only, the present findings suggest that CBASP group therapy may contribute to the improvement of interpersonal behavior. Group therapy is discussed as a potential boosting effect for individual CBASP. However, as the present data were collected in a multimodal inpatient setting without competitor, randomized controlled trials are warranted that investigate the specific benefits of the group modality or the combined individual and group therapy over individual CBASP only.