Group Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP): A Pilot Study for Bipolar Depression

Front Psychiatry. 2020 Sep 23;11:565681. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.565681. eCollection 2020.


Objectives: Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP) is an individually administered treatment model designed specifically for Persistent Depression however bipolar patients have traditionally been excluded from CBASP studies. There is a perception that bipolar depression will be harder to treat and requires a unique psychological approach. This pilot study reports on the feasibility of administering the same 20-week manualized group CBASP therapy with bipolar patients currently in a depressive episode.

Methods: This non-randomized, single-arm prospective pilot study, reports on an a posteriori exploration of benefits to bipolar depressed patients (n=26) of the same 20-week group CBASP intervention administered to unipolar depressed patients (n=81). The clinical trial for the initial phase examining benefits of the manualized 20-week group CBASP intervention with unipolar patients was registered with the ISRCTN registry, study ID: ISRCTN95149444. Results reported here include mixed ANOVA analyses, across group treatment models and diagnostic categories. Changes over time in self-reported depressive symptoms (Inventory of Depressive Symptoms -IDS-SR), self-reported social functioning, interpersonal problems and interpersonal dispositions are documented for all patients. An exploratory longitudinal latent class analysis was used to examine patients' trajectories of improvement in depressive symptoms. Finally, the best predictors of change in reported depressive symptoms were explored with a logistic regression for all patients.

Results: Improvements in depressive symptoms and in social functioning over time were significant for all patients with bipolar patients trending towards a greater improvement in depressive symptoms after controlling for baseline differences. An exploratory Latent Class Analysis identified two different treatment trajectories for the entire sample: 1) moderate to severely depressed patients who improved significantly (49%) and 2) severely depressed patients who did not improve (51%). The best predictors of non-response to group therapy include high baseline problems in social functioning and low rates of self-reported Perceived Improvements in overall health.

Conclusion: Bipolar patients in a depressive episode appear to benefit from the same 20-week group CBASP model designed originally for the treatment of Persistent Depressive Disorder. Bipolar patients seem more easily mobilized both during and outside of group therapy sessions and report more interpersonal confidence and more agency than unipolar depressed patients.

Keywords: Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP); bipolar depression; group psychotherapy; severe depression; unipolar depression.