Comparison of Cognitive Therapy and Relaxation Training for Panic Disorder


Current approaches to the treatment of panic disorder (PD) include a treatment package consisting of relaxation training (RT), cognitive therapy (CT), and exposure-based components. In an examination of the separate effects of RT and CT without formally taught exposure of any form, 64 PD patients were assigned randomly to one of these treatment protocols or to a minimal-contact control (MCC) condition. Both RT and CT were superior to the MCC condition on a variety of measures pertaining to panic, global psychological functioning, agoraphobic fear, and other associated fears. A significantly greater percentage of patients were classified as treatment responders (based on a composite index) after CT (82%) and RT (68%), compared with the control group (36%). On measures of agoraphobic fear, CT patients fared slightly better than RT patients. Some support was demonstrated for specific cognitive changes after CT, although treatment specificity was not strongly supported overall. These results are discussed in light of current theories of PD and the presumed importance of exposure in its treatment.

Publication Title

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology