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  • Heinonen, Erkki; Knekt, Paul; Härkänen, Tommi; Virtala, Esa; Lindfors, Olavi (2018)
    Childhood adversities frequently precede adulthood depression and anxiety. Yet, how they impact needed treatment duration, type or focus in these common disorders, is unclear. For developing more individualized and precise interventions, we investigated whether specific early adversities associate with patients' distinct psychiatric problems, psychological vulnerabilities, and suitability for psychotherapy. A total of 221 depressed and anxious adult outpatients (excluding psychotic, severe personality, bipolar, and substance abuse disorders) referred from community, student, occupational, and private healthcare services filled the Childhood Family Atmosphere Questionnaire (CFAQ). They also filled self-reports on interpersonal behavior and problems, perceived competence, dispositional optimism, sense of coherence, defenses, and psychiatric history. Clinicians assessed the patients' symptomatology, personality, object relations, cognitive performance, and psychotherapy suitability. Regression analyses were conducted. Childhood adversities predicted both worse current psychological functioning (e.g., interpersonal problems), and better clinician-rated capacities for benefiting from psychotherapy (e.g. self-reflection, capacity for interaction). Parental problems had the most numerous negative associations to psychological functioning. Best capacities for psychotherapy were predicted by recollected family unhappiness. Associations with psychiatric criteria were, however, largely non-significant. In conclusion, for psychosocial treatment planning, patients' early adversities may indicate both vulnerability and resources. As childhood adversities are frequent among treatment-seekers, further studies examining how early adversities predict psychotherapy outcome are needed.
  • Heinonen, Erkki; Nissen-Lie, Helene A. (2020)
    Objective: Psychotherapists differ notably in the outcomes their patients achieve, and the characteristics that may explain these differences have attracted increasing interest. We systematically review studies on therapist pre-treatment characteristics predicting patient outcomes. Method: Systematic searches on databases for psychotherapy research, clinical psychology, and medical science for the years 2000-2018 identified published research examining therapist characteristics and psychotherapy outcomes. Of 2041 studies, 31 met inclusion criteria. Results: Findings show a few direct effects of therapist intrapersonal variables (e.g., self-relatedness, attachment) and several interaction effects with other constructs (e.g., patient pathology) on outcome. There is little support for the relevance of self-rated social skills. However, more consistent evidence has recently emerged for performance-based measurements of professional interpersonal skills, especially when elicited in challenging situations. Patient outcomes were also predicted by therapists' self-rated professional characteristics, such as their experienced difficulties in practice, coping mechanisms, and attitudes towards therapeutic work, indicating that therapist self-perception also matters, although not always in the direction expected. Conclusions: More effective therapists seem characterized by professionally cultivated interpersonal capacities, which are likely rooted in their personal lives and attachment history. Research guidelines are proposed for moving this field forward (including larger samples, multilevel modeling, and in-depth qualitative work).