Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective psychological treatment for major depressive disorder, although some patients experience a return of symptoms after finishing therapy. The ability to predict which individuals are more vulnerable to deterioration would allow for targeted interventions to prevent short-term relapse and longer-term recurrence.
This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to identify factors associated with an increased risk of relapse and/or recurrence (RR) after CBT for depression.
We reviewed 13 relevant papers, of which a small set of unique samples were eligible for meta-analysis (k = 5, N = 369). Twenty-six predictor variables were identified and grouped into seven categories: residual depressive symptoms; prior episodes of depression; cognitive reactivity; stressful life events; personality factors; clinical and diagnostic factors; demographics.
Meta-analyses indicated that residual depressive symptoms (r = 0.34 [0.10, 0.54], p = .01) and prior episodes (r = 0.19 [0.07, 0.30], p = .002) were statistically significant predictors of RR, but cognitive reactivity was not (r = 0.18 [−0.02, 0.36], p = .08). Other variables lacked replicated findings. On average, 33.4% of patients experienced RR after CBT.
Patients with the above risk factors could be offered evidence-based continuation-phase interventions to enhance the longer-term effectiveness of CBT.