Cognitive behavioral therapy for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Rapid review

Marie T. Williams, Kylie N. Johnston, Catherine Paquet

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is increasingly recommended in the management of people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This rapid review presents the evidence base for CBT for people with COPD and describes 1) the nature of CBT interventions and comparators in controlled trials (high or low resource intensity); and 2) factors influencing intervention effects on health outcomes (anxiety, depression, breath-lessness, quality of life and exercise capacity). Primary studies reporting CBT interventions in adults with COPD were identified with data extracted by a single reviewer (20% of studies checked for data accuracy). Studies were synthesized descriptively with meta-analyses (random effects models) of controlled trials undertaken to report mean standardized effect sizes (95% CI) for health outcomes. Random effects meta-regression models explored whether CBT target, intervention dosage, intensity, facilitator profession, delivery mode, clinically significant anxiety/depression, trial design/quality and sample size predicted effect size. The search identified 33 primary studies published between 1996 and 2019 (controlled trials n=24, single group cohort n=6, case exemplars n=2, phenomenological n=1). Controlled trials frequently compared high-intensity CBT interventions against enhanced/ usual care (n=12) or high-intensity CBT interventions against high-intensity comparators (n=11). When all controlled studies were included, small, significant improvements favoring CBT were evident across all health outcomes (SMD ranged from −0.27 to 0.35, p<0.05). When intensity dyads were considered, significant improvements were evident only when high-intensity CBT interventions were compared to enhanced usual care/usual care (SMDs ranged from −0.45 to 0.54, p <0.05). No other variable consistently predicted intervention effect sizes across all health outcomes. Overall, the evidence base supports the use of CBT for a range of health outcomes in people with COPD. Consistent benefits were evident when high-resource-intensive CBT interventions were compared to usual care. Low-resource-intensity CBT warrants further investigation in settings where cost of comprehensive care is prohibitive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-919
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of COPD
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 23 Apr 2020


  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Rapid review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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