A multidimensional meta-analysis of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder

Clin Psychol Rev. 2004 Dec;24(8):1011-30. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2004.08.004.


A number of qualitative and meta-analytic reviews point to the efficacy of psychotherapeutic and pharmacological interventions for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In this article, we report a multidimensional meta-analysis of psychological and pharmacological treatment studies for OCD published between 1980 and 2001, examining a range of variables not previously meta-analyzed, including exclusion rates and exclusion criteria, percent of patients improved or recovered post-treatment, mean post-treatment symptomatology, and long-term outcome. These additional metrics provide a more nuanced view of the strengths and limitations of the existing data and their implications for clinical practice. Behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy, and a range of pharmacological interventions, lead to substantial improvement for the average patient, with individual psychotherapies and clomipramine and other Serotonin reuptake inhibitors faring best across multiple metrics. However, OCD symptoms persist at moderate levels even following adequate treatment course, and no replicable data are available on maintenance of gains for either form of treatment at 1 year or beyond. Future research should track recruitment and exclusion of study participants, include more comorbid patients, and focus on longer-term follow-up using multiple indices of outcome. More research on combined pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions is also indicated.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Research Design
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors