Compared with the treatment of physical conditions, the quality of care of mental health disorders remains poor and the rate of improvement in treatment is slow, a primary reason being the lack of objective and systematic methods for measuring the delivery of psychotherapy.
To use a deep learning model applied to a large-scale clinical data set of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session transcripts to generate a quantifiable measure of treatment delivered and to determine the association between the quantity of each aspect of therapy delivered and clinical outcomes.
Clinical outcomes were measured in terms of reliable improvement in patient symptoms and treatment engagement. Reliable improvement was calculated based on 2 severity measures: Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)21 and Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale (GAD-7),22 corresponding to depressive and anxiety symptoms respectively, completed by the patient at initial assessment and before every therapy session (see eMethods in the Supplement for details).
This work demonstrates an association between clinical outcomes in psychotherapy and the content of therapist utterances. These findings support the principle that CBT change methods help produce improvements in patients’ presenting symptoms. The application of deep learning to large clinical data sets can provide valuable insights into psychotherapy, informing the development of new treatments and helping standardize clinical practice.