Long-term psychological outcomes in spinal cord injured persons: results of a controlled trial using cognitive behavior therapy

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1997 Jan;78(1):33-8. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(97)90006-x.


Objective: Although there are many anecdotal reports that psychological intervention is effective in enhancing adjustment to spinal cord injury (SCI), there are little data to support this assertion. To date, reports of few longitudinal-based controlled trials that assessed psychological outcomes for SCI persons have been published. This study was conducted to determine long-term efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy during rehabilitation.

Design: The study employed a nonrandomized controlled trial, and measures were taken on three occasions: before, immediately after, and 12 months after treatment. SETTING, OUTCOME MEASURES, AND INTERVENTION: Anxiety, depressive mood, and self-esteem were assessed in 28 SCI persons consecutively selected on admission to hospital, who participated in specialized group cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) during rehabilitation.

Controls: The intervention group's responses on the measures were compared with a control group of 41 SCI persons who only received traditional rehabilitation services during their hospitalization.

Results: There were no overall group differences on anxiety, depressive mood, and self-esteem, although there was a trend for the treatment group to have greater levels of improvement in depression scores across time in comparison to the control group. However, those in the treatment group who reported high levels of depressive mood before the CBT treatment were significantly less depressed 1 year after injury, compared to similar persons in the control group.

Conclusions: While it appears not everyone who experiences SCI needs CBT, at least in the hospital phase of their rehabilitation, those who report high levels of depressive mood benefited greatly from CBT.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Time Factors