Five sessions and counting: considering ultra-brief treatment for panic disorder

Depress Anxiety. 2012 Jun;29(6):465-70. doi: 10.1002/da.21910.


Background: Brief cognitive-behavioral therapy for panic disorder has the potential to lower health care costs and enhance dissemination of evidence-based interventions to clinical practice. This manuscript evaluates the utility of brief cognitive-behavioral therapy for panic disorder.

Methods: A narrative review of studies examining the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral brief treatment of panic disorder, with a specific focus on an ultra-brief, 5-session, intervention developed by our group.

Results: Brief cognitive-behavioral therapy for panic disorder is associated with clinically meaningful symptom improvement reflecting large effect sizes, comparable to those observed for standard protocols.

Conclusions: Growing evidence encourages the further evaluation and application brief cognitive-behavioral therapy for panic disorder. Controlled trials of cognitive-behavioral therapy have established the dramatic benefit that can be offered by brief treatment (often 12-15 sessions) approaches for Axis I disorders. Yet, as the field advances and core mechanisms of change are identified, there is the potential for offering efficacy in even briefer treatment protocols. In this manuscript, we describe the elements and initial efficacy estimates, based on published studies, for an ultra-brief treatment approach for panic disorder. We also discuss the potential impact, and such brief treatment can have relative to dissemination issues and the desire for the timely end to psychological suffering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Panic Disorder / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome