A novel approach to the assessment of fidelity to a cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD using clinical worksheets: A proof of concept with cognitive processing therapy.

Stirman, S. W., Gutner, C. A., Gamarra, J., Suvak, M., Vogt, D., Johnson, C., Wachen, J. S., Dondanville, K. A., Yarvis, J. S., Mintz, J., Peterson, A. L., Young-McCaughan, S., & Resick, P. A., for the STRONG STAR Consortium.
May 1, 2021

Behavior Therapy, 52(3), 656–672.

Fidelity monitoring is a critical indicator of psychotherapy quality and is central to successful implementation. A major barrier to fidelity in routine care is the lack of feasible, scalable, and valid measurement strategies. A reliable, low-burden fidelity assessment would promote sustained implementation of cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs). The current study examined fidelity measurement for cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using clinical worksheets. External raters evaluated patient worksheets done as a part of treatment, both guided by the therapist and completed independently as homework. Results demonstrated that fidelity ratings from CPT session worksheets were feasible and efficient. Notably, they were strongly correlated with observer ratings of the fidelity of CPT strategies that were present on the worksheets. Agreement among ratings conducted by individuals with a range of experience with CPT was acceptable to high. There was not a main effect of therapist-guided, in-session worksheet ratings on PTSD symptom change. However, patient competence in completing worksheets independently was associated with greater PTSD symptom decline and in-session, therapist-guided worksheet completion was associated with larger symptom decreases among patients with high levels of competence. With further research and refinement, rating of worksheets may be an efficient way to examine therapist and patient skill in key CPT elements, and their interactions, compared to the gold standard of observer ratings of therapy video-recordings. Additional research is needed to determine if worksheets are an accurate and scalable alternative to gold standard observer ratings in settings in which time and resources are limited.