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CBT for difficult-to-treat depression: single complex case

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen Barton, Peter Armstrong, Stephen Holland, Hayley Tyson-Adams



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for depression but a significant minority of clients are difficult to treat: they are more likely to have adverse childhood experiences, early-onset depression, co-morbidities, interpersonal problems and heightened risk, and are prone to drop out, non-response or relapse. CBT based on a self-regulation model (SR-CBT) has been developed for this client group which incorporates aspects of first, second and third wave therapies. The model and treatment components are described in a concurrent article (Barton et al., 2022). The aims of this study were: (1) to illustrate the application of high dose SR-CBT in a difficult-to-treat case, including treatment decisions, therapy process and outcomes, and (2) to highlight the similarities and differences between SR-CBT and standard CBT models. A single case quasi-experimental design was used with a depressed client who was an active participant in treatment decisions, data collection and interpretation. The client had highly recurrent depression with atypical features and had received several psychological therapies prior to receiving SR-CBT, including standard CBT. The client responded well to SR-CBT over a 10-month acute phase: compared with baseline, her moods were less severe and less reactive to setbacks and challenges. Over a 15-month maintenance phase, with approximately monthly booster sessions, the client maintained these gains and further stabilized her mood. High dose SR-CBT was effective in treating depression in a client who had not received lasting benefit from standard CBT and other therapies. An extended maintenance phase had a stabilizing effect and the client did not relapse. Further empirical studies are underway to replicate these results. Key learning aims (1) To find out similarities and differences between self-regulation CBT and other CBT models; (2) To discover how self-regulation CBT treatment components are delivered in a bespoke way, based on the needs of the individual case; (3) To consider the advantages of using single case methods in routine clinical practice, particularly with difficult-to-treat cases.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Barton SB, Armstrong PV, Holland S, Tyson-Adams H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cognitive Behaviour Therapist

Year: 2022

Volume: 15

Online publication date: 11/08/2022

Acceptance date: 22/06/2022

Date deposited: 14/09/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1754-470X

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S1754470X22000319


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