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Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Dec;158(12):1993-8.

Emotion-focused psychotherapy for patients with panic disorder.

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  • 1Anxiety Disorders Prevention Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA, USA.



Recent studies have suggested that most patients treated for panic disorder receive forms of psychotherapy other than cognitive behavior therapy, even though there is little information about the efficacy of such treatments or how they compare to proven active treatments. The authors compared one of these other forms, emotion-focused psychotherapy (given to 30 patients with panic disorder), to results obtained with recommended standard treatment (either cognitive behavior therapy [N=36] or imipramine [N=22]). The authors also compared emotion-focused psychotherapy to results obtained in subjects given pill placebo (N=24).


Subjects met DSM-IV criteria for panic disorder with no more than mild agoraphobia. Treatment consisted of approximately 3 months of weekly visits followed by 6 monthly maintenance visits. Assessments were conducted after each treatment phase and at a follow-up visit after 6 months of no treatment.


Emotion-focused psychotherapy was less effective for symptoms of panic disorder than treatment with either cognitive behavior therapy or imipramine; results obtained with emotion-focused psychotherapy after the acute and maintenance phases were similar to those seen with placebo. Treatment expectations were not different among the different groups. Patients receiving emotion-focused psychotherapy had the highest completion rate.


The results suggest that emotion-focused psychotherapy (a supportive form of psychotherapy) has low efficacy for the treatment of panic disorder. However, emotion-focused psychotherapy may be superior to medical management in helping patients stay in treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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