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Original Article
July 2011

Cognitive Therapy vs Interpersonal Psychotherapy in Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt (Dr Stangier); Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Freiburg, Freiburg (Drs Schramm and Berger); Department of Social Work, Health and Nursing, University of Applied Sciences, Esslingen (Dr Heidenreich), Germany; and Department of Psychology, Kings College London, London, England (Dr Clark).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(7):692-700. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.67

Context Cognitive therapy (CT) focuses on the modification of biased information processing and dysfunctional beliefs of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) aims to change problematic interpersonal behavior patterns that may have an important role in the maintenance of SAD. No direct comparisons of the treatments for SAD in an outpatient setting exist.

Objective To compare the efficacy of CT, IPT, and a waiting-list control (WLC) condition.

Design Randomized controlled trial.

Setting Two academic outpatient treatment sites.

Patients Of 254 potential participants screened, 117 had a primary diagnosis of SAD and were eligible for randomization; 106 participants completed the treatment or waiting phase.

Interventions Treatment comprised 16 individual sessions of either CT or IPT and 1 booster session. Twenty weeks after randomization, posttreatment assessment was conducted and participants in the WLC received 1 of the treatments.

Main Outcome Measures The primary outcome was treatment response on the Clinical Global Impression Improvement Scale as assessed by independent masked evaluators. The secondary outcome measures were independent assessor ratings using the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and patient self-ratings of SAD symptoms.

Results At the posttreatment assessment, response rates were 65.8% for CT, 42.1% for IPT, and 7.3% for WLC. Regarding response rates and Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale scores, CT performed significantly better than did IPT, and both treatments were superior to WLC. At 1-year follow-up, the differences between CT and IPT were largely maintained, with significantly higher response rates in the CT vs the IPT group (68.4% vs 31.6%) and better outcomes on the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. No significant treatment× site interactions were noted.

Conclusions Cognitive therapy and IPT led to considerable improvements that were maintained 1 year after treatment; CT was more efficacious than was IPT in reducing social phobia symptoms.