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Change in Cognitive Errors and Coping Over the Course of Brief Psychodynamic Intervention


  • We thank Laurent Berthoud for editing the present article. The data stem from a project financially supported by the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research (SNSF), Grant No. 3200-05901.98

Please address correspondence to: Dr Ueli Kramer, PhD, IUP-Dpt Psychiatry-CHUV, University of Lausanne, Av. D'Echallens 9, CH-1004 Lausanne, Switzerland. E-mail:



Cognitive change over the course of psychodynamic psychotherapy has been postulated by several models, but has rarely been studied. Based on the adaptive skills model (Badgio, Halperin, & Barber, 1999), it is reasonable to expect that very brief dynamic psychotherapy may be associated with change in coping patterns and cognitive errors (also known as cognitive distortions) y.


N = 50 outpatients presenting with various psychiatric disorders and undergoing 4 sessions of Brief Psychodynamic Intervention (BPI; Despland, Drapeau, & de Roten, 2005; Despland, Michel, & de Roten, 2010) were included in this naturalistic study (mean age: 31 years; 56% female; all Caucasian). Cognitive errors and coping strategies were assessed using the Cognitive Errors Rating Scale (Drapeau et al., 2008) and Coping Patterns Rating Scale (Perry et al., 2005). These observer rated methods were applied to the verbatim transcriptions of all 4 therapy sessions completed by each patient.


Results indicate change in both cognitive errors and coping patterns over the course of BPI, including an increase in the Overall Coping Functioning and a decrease in unhelpful coping processes, such as isolation, which reflects a shift in participant appraisal towards stress appraised as a challenge at the end of treatment. These changes predicted symptom change at the end of treatment. While cognitive errors also changed over the course of BPI, no predictive effect was found with regard to symptom change.


These results are interpreted within the framework of common change principles in psychotherapy. Implications and future research are discussed.

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