Impact of separation anxiety on psychotherapy outcomes for adults with anxiety disorders

KIRSTEN Laura T., et al
Journal article citation:
Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 8(1), March 2008, pp.36-42.
Taylor and Francis

Anxiety is highly prevalent in the community, and despite improvements in therapy a significant proportion of people tend to relapse, or remain significantly symptomatic. Theorists have proposed that untreated attachment anxieties and separation conflicts emerge from childhood development to be pervasive problems in adulthood. This study aimed to investigate the influence of juvenile and concurrent adult separation anxiety on psychotherapy outcomes. It was hypothesised that separation anxiety impedes therapy progress. A sample of 154 adults with a DSM-IV anxiety disorder received eight weekly sessions of group cognitive-behaviour therapy. In addition to intake and termination measures of anxiety and depression, participants also completed measures of juvenile and adult separation anxiety and the influence of these on outcomes was studied. Higher adult separation anxiety was associated with a greater likelihood of anxiety and comorbid depression remaining unremitted at termination of treatment. Higher juvenile separation anxiety was only associated with a greater likelihood of still being comorbidly depressed at termination of treatment. The findings of this study highlight the need to modify conventional exposure-based CBT treatments, and provide psychodynamic treatments that address attachment anxieties and separation conflicts.

Subject terms:
mental health problems, outcomes, psychotherapy, adults, attachment, anxiety, behaviour therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, depression;
Content type:
Journal home page
ISSN online:
ISSN print:
1473 3145

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