Get access

Some like it specific: The difference between treatment goals of anxious and depressed patients


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Martin Grosse Holtforth, Friedrich Schiller Universität of Jena, Department of Psychology, Humboldtstrasse 11, 07743 Jena, Germany (e-mail:;


Objectives. While clinical diagnoses are the primary criteria for differential indication in psychotherapy, treatment-goal themes may provide additional information on diagnosis-specific and extra-diagnostic aspects of treatment motivation. It is hypothesized that the goals of anxiety patients focus on symptom relief, while the goals of depression patients are thematically more heterogeneous. Additionally, it is hypothesized that patients with various specific anxiety disorders can be differentiated on their treatment-goal themes.

Design. To obtain a sufficiently large number of diagnostically non-comorbid patients, a sample of 328 patients with non-comorbid anxiety and depression patients was merged from two subsamples: 255 outpatients from a university-based clinic in Germany and 73 outpatients from a comparable clinic in German-speaking Switzerland.

Methods. The treatment-goal themes of the 328 outpatients were coded using the Bern inventory of treatment goals.

Results. Patients with non-comorbid diagnoses of depression or anxiety differed as hypothesized. Anxiety patients' treatment goals predominantly focused on symptom relief, while depression patients' treatment goals were thematically more heterogeneous. In addition, patients with various specific anxiety disorders differed in their treatment-goal themes.

Conclusions. Implications for clinical assessment and treatment planning are discussed.

Get access to the full text of this article