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Original Research

A Randomized Clinical Trial of Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy and Sertraline in the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Marcelo B. Sousa, MD, MSc; Luciano R. Isolan, MD; Renata R. Oliveira, MD; Gisele G. Manfro, MD, PhD; and Aristides V. Cordioli, MD, PhD

Published: July 14, 2006

Article Abstract

Background: Cognitive-behavioral group therapy (CBGT) and serotonin reuptake inhibitors have proven efficacy in reducing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). There is no consensus about which of these forms of treatment is more effective. This study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of CBGT as compared to that of sertraline in reducing OCD symptoms.

Method: Fifty-six outpatients with an OCD diagnosis, according to DSM-IV criteria, participated in the randomized clinical trial: 28 took 100 mg/day of sertraline and 28 underwent CBGT for 12 weeks. Efficacy of treatments was rated according to the reduction in scores on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS) and the Clinical Global Impressions-Severity of Illness scale. The trial was performed in 4 successive periods from March 2002 to December 2003.

Results: Both treatments were effective, although patients treated with CBGT obtained a mean YBOCS reduction of symptoms of 44%, while those treated with sertraline obtained only a 28% reduction (p = .033). Cognitive-behavioral group therapy was also significantly more effective in reducing the intensity of compulsions (p = .030). Further, 8 patients (32%) treated with CBGT presented a complete remission of OCD symptoms (YBOCS score < = 8) as compared to only 1 patient (4%) among those who received sertraline (p = .023).

Conclusion: Cognitive-behavioral group therapy and sertraline have shown to be effective in reducing OCD symptoms. Nevertheless, the rate of symptom reduction, intensity reduction of compulsions, and percentage of patients who obtained full remission were significantly higher in patients treated with CBGT.

Volume: 67

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