Efficacy of a dilemma-focused intervention for unipolar depression: Study protocol for a multicenter randomized controlled trial

Guillem Feixas, Arturo Bados, Eugeni García-Grau, Adrián Montesano, Gloria Dada, Victoria Compañ, Mari Aguilera, Marta Salla, Joan Miquel Soldevilla, Adriana Trujillo, Clara Paz, Lluís Botella, Sergi Corbella, Luis Ángel Saúl-Gutiérrez, José Cañete, Miquel Gasol, Montserrat Ibarra, Leticia Medeiros-Ferreira, José Soriano, Eugénia RibeiroFranz Caspar, David Winter

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Depression is one of the more severe and serious health problems because of its morbidity, disabling effects and for its societal and economic burden. Despite the variety of existing pharmacological and psychological treatments, most of the cases evolve with only partial remission, relapse and recurrence.Cognitive models have contributed significantly to the understanding of unipolar depression and its psychological treatment. However, success is only partial and many authors affirm the need to improve those models and also the treatment programs derived from them. One of the issues that requires further elaboration is the difficulty these patients experience in responding to treatment and in maintaining therapeutic gains across time without relapse or recurrence. Our research group has been working on the notion of cognitive conflict viewed as personal dilemmas according to personal construct theory. We use a novel method for identifying those conflicts using the repertory grid technique (RGT). Preliminary results with depressive patients show that about 90% of them have one or more of those conflicts. This fact might explain the blockage and the difficult progress of these patients, especially the more severe and/or chronic. These results justify the need for specific interventions focused on the resolution of these internal conflicts. This study aims to empirically test the hypothesis that an intervention focused on the dilemma(s) specifically detected for each patient will enhance the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression.Design: A therapy manual for a dilemma-focused intervention will be tested using a randomized clinical trial by comparing the outcome of two treatment conditions: combined group CBT (eight, 2-hour weekly sessions) plus individual dilemma-focused therapy (eight, 1-hour weekly sessions) and CBT alone (eight, 2-hour group weekly sessions plus eight, 1-hour individual weekly sessions).Method: Participants are patients aged over 18 years meeting diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder, with a score of 19 or above on the Beck depression inventory, second edition (BDI-II) and presenting at least one cognitive conflict (implicative dilemma or dilemmatic construct) as assessed using the RGT. The BDI-II is the primary outcome measure, collected at baseline, at the end of therapy, and at 3- and 12-month follow-up; other secondary measures are also used.Discussion: We expect that adding a dilemma-focused intervention to CBT will increase the efficacy of one of the more prestigious therapies for depression, thus resulting in a significant contribution to the psychological treatment of depression.Trial registration: ISRCTN92443999; ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01542957.

Original languageEnglish
Article number144
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2013


  • Cognitive conflicts
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Depression
  • Implicative dilemmas
  • Personal constructs
  • Randomized clinical trial
  • Repertory grid


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