Support Person (Co-Therapist) in the Therapy of Panic Disorder

Vito Zepinic, Blagoj Kuzmanovski


Objective: This study evaluates: a) the natural course and severity of panic disorder using psychometric testing, and b) the efficacy of using support person (co-therapist) in the treatment of panic disorder.
Method: Twenty-six outpatients were assessed with the Burns Anxiety Inventory, Diagnostic Anxiety Questionnaire, Hillview Panic Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory. The patients were divided into two groups: 13 patients have been treated without involvement of the support person (control group), and 17 patients have been treated with help from the support person. The patients were also taught to write the Daily Panic Record form and the support persons (co-therapists) were instructed about therapy procedures provided by the therapist. All involved patients were re-assessed with the same psychometric instruments after three and six months of the treatment.
Results: The results on initial assessment were similar in both groups. As therapy progressed, both groups show a reduction in anxiety and depression after 3 months of treatment. However, it was evident that patients in the experimental group (with support person) had much better progress in last 3 months of the treatment than those in the control group.
Conclusion: Accepting that the exposure is the most effective treatment of panic disorder, we hypothesised that the therapy with a help from the support therapy should be more effective. We found that 54% of the patients in experimental group were panic-free after 3-months, and 86% after 6-months treatment. However, those who did not have help from support person, only 21% were panic-free after 3-months treatment and 33% after 6-months treatment.


Panic disorder; Co-therapist; Exposure therapy; Therapeutic alliance

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