Meta-analytic research shows early response to psychotherapy to predict depression and anxiety outcomes posttreatment. However, little is known about which variables explain differences in early response. Moreover, for patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), there is limited research on whether early response predicts longer-term changes in symptoms. In this study, we used anxiety and controllability beliefs assessed in daily life at intake to predict early response to treatment (until session 5), and we further examined if early response predicts longer-term changes in symptoms (until posttreatment, when adjusting for intake symptom severity) in patients with GAD.
Forty-nine individuals with GAD reported their anxiety and controllability beliefs using event-based (participant-initiated) ecological momentary assessment (EMA) for 7 days at intake. Symptoms were measured at pretreatment, session 5, session 10, and posttreatment.
Results show anxiety levels reported during EMA to be associated with a higher reduction in both anxiety and depressive symptoms early in treatment. Moreover, higher controllability beliefs during EMA were associated with less early response. When predicting change in symptoms until posttreatment, results showed an early change to significantly predict change in symptoms until posttreatment.
Given that we found early response to psychotherapy in patients with GAD to be a prognostic factor for long-term response, it is recommended to monitor response early in treatment and pay special attention to those patients showing less early response.