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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Medication Nonresponders With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Wait-List–Controlled Open Trial

J Clin Psychiatry 2004;65(7):922-931

Background: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is generally recommended for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) patients who have failed to respond to approved medications. However, few studies of the efficacy of CBT have selected patients who did not respond to medications.

Method: We selected 20 adult OCD (DSM-IV criteria) patients with a history of inadequate response to adequate doses of multiple medications, as well as a high rate of comorbid disorders. After a 1-month wait-list period, patients received 15 sessions of outpatient CBT incorporating exposure and ritual prevention.

Results: OCD severity (as measured with the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale) decreased significantly (p < .05) after treatment, and gains appeared to have been maintained over a 6-month follow-up period. Analysis of clinical significance indicated that 53% (8/15) of treatment completers met this criterion at posttreatment and 40% (6/15) met the criterion at 6-month follow-up. The sample was characterized as having generally poor insight and putting low effort into CBT; these factors significantly (p < .05) predicted degree of improvement.

Conclusion: CBT is a useful treatment for OCD patients who have failed to respond adequately to multiple serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications. However, these results were attenuated compared with previous trials. Patients with a long history of poor response to medication may have poor insight and/or not put sufficient effort into treatment; these factors are likely to diminish treatment outcome.