Cognitive change before sudden gains in cognitive behavioural therapy for panic disorder

Rachel Lee, Dean McMillan, Jaime Delgadillo, Rachael Alexander, Mike Lucock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sudden gains occur in a range of disorders and treatments and are of clinical and theoretical significance if they can shed light on therapeutic change processes. This study investigated the relationship between sudden gains in panic symptoms and preceding cognitive change during cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for panic disorder. Method: Participants with panic disorder completed in session measures of panic symptoms and catastrophic cognitions. Independent samples t-tests were used to compare the post-treatment score of those who met criteria for one or more sudden gain during treatment with those who did not, and to compare within-session cognitive change between pre-sudden gain sessions and the previous (control) session. Results: Twenty-two (42%) of 53 participants experienced a sudden gain during treatment. Participants demonstrating a sudden gain showed more improvement in panic symptoms from pre- to post-treatment than those without a sudden gain. The within-session cognitive change score in the pre-gain session was significantly greater than in the control session. Conclusions: Sudden gains occurred in individual CBT for panic disorder and within-session cognitive change was associated with sudden gains. This is consistent with the cognitive model of panic disorder and highlights how sudden gains can help to identify key change processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number2
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2024

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