Randomized trial of behavior therapy for adults with Tourette syndrome

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;69(8):795-803. doi: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.1528.


Context: Tics in Tourette syndrome begin in childhood, peak in early adolescence, and often decrease by early adulthood. However, some adult patients continue to have impairing tics. Medications for tics are often effective but can cause adverse effects. Behavior therapy may offer an alternative but has not been examined in a large-scale controlled trial in adults.

Objective: To test the efficacy of a comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics in adults with Tourette syndrome of at least moderate severity.

Design: A randomized controlled trial with posttreatment evaluations at 3 and 6 months for positive responders.

Setting: Three outpatient research clinics.

Patients: Patients (N = 122; 78 males; age range, 16-69 years) with Tourette syndrome or chronic tic disorder were recruited between December 27, 2005, and May 21, 2009.

Interventions: Patients received 8 sessions of comprehensive behavioral intervention for tics or 8 sessions of supportive treatment for 10 weeks. Patients with a positive response were given 3 monthly booster sessions.

Main outcome measures: Total tic score on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale and the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement scale rated by a clinician masked to treatment assignment.

Results: Behavior therapy was associated with a significantly greater mean (SD) decrease on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (24.0 [6.47] to 17.8 [7.32]) from baseline to end point compared with the control treatment (21.8 [6.59] to 19.3 [7.40]) (P < .001; effect size = 0.57). Twenty-four of 63 patients (38.1%) were rated as much improved or very much improved on the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement scale compared with 4 of 63 (6.4%) in the control group (P < .001). Attrition was 13.9%, with no difference across groups. Patients receiving behavior therapy who were available for assessment at 6 months after treatment showed continued benefit.

Conclusion: Comprehensive behavior therapy is a safe and effective intervention for adults with Tourette syndrome.

Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00231985.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Report
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tics* / physiopathology
  • Tics* / psychology
  • Tics* / therapy
  • Tourette Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Tourette Syndrome* / physiopathology
  • Tourette Syndrome* / psychology
  • Tourette Syndrome* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00231985