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Randomized controlled trial of brief cognitive behaviour therapy versus treatment as usual in recurrent deliberate self-harm: the POPMACT study


Background. We carried out a large randomized trial of a brief form of cognitive therapy, manual-assisted cognitive behaviour therapy (MACT) versus treatment as usual (TAU) for deliberate self-harm.

Method. Patients presenting with recurrent deliberate self-harm in five centres were randomized to either MACT or (TAU) and followed up over 1 year. MACT patients received a booklet based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles and were offered up to five plus two booster sessions of CBT from a therapist in the first 3 months of the study. Ratings of parasuicide risk, anxiety, depression, social functioning and global function, positive and negative thinking, and quality of life were measured at baseline and after 6 and 12 months.

Results. Four hundred and eighty patients were randomized. Sixty per cent of the MACT group had both the booklet and CBT sessions. There were seven suicides, five in the TAU group. The main outcome measure, the proportion of those repeating deliberate self-harm in the 12 months of the study, showed no significant difference between those treated with MACT (39%) and treatment as usual (46%) (OR 0·78, 95% CI 0·53 to 1·14, P=0·20).

Conclusion. Brief cognitive behaviour therapy is of limited efficacy in reducing self-harm repetition, but the findings taken in conjunctin with the economic evaluation (Byford et al. 2003) indicate superiority of MACT over TAU in terms of cost and effectiveness combined.


Corresponding author

Professor Peter Tyrer, Imperial College, (Charing Cross Campus), St Dunstan's Road, London W6 8RP.


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