The Role of Dyadic Discord in Outcomes in Acute Phase Cognitive Therapy for Adults With Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder

Joseph M. Trombello, Jeffrey R. Vittengl, Wayne H. Denton, Abu Minhajuddin, Michael E. Thase, Robin B. Jarrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Major depressive disorder (MDD) and relationship discord between cohabiting partners frequently co-occur, with bidirectional effects established. As relationship quality influences understanding and treatment of MDD, the current analyses clarified the relations of pretreatment dyadic discord with outcomes during and at the end of acute phase cognitive therapy (CT) for adults with recurrent MDD. Married or cohabiting patients (n = 219) completed the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DYS) before and after a 16–20 session, 12–14 week CT protocol. Lower levels of dyadic adjustment indicated higher levels of dyadic discord. Response to CT was defined as the absence of a major depressive episode and ≤ 12 on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Pretreatment dyadic discord, whether defined as a continuous or categorical variable (using DYS cutoff score of 97), was not associated with treatment completion or response but was positively associated with levels of depressive symptoms at the end of acute phase CT. Furthermore, CT was associated with declines in dyadic discord, with 23.3% of initially discordant couples moving to nondiscordant status at the end of CT. Depressive symptoms did not significantly mediate changes in dyadic discord. Finally, pre- (but not mid-) treatment dyadic discord was associated with subsequent changes in depressive symptoms, suggesting limited mediation. These findings replicate prior research indicating that individual CT is associated with reductions in depressive symptoms and dyadic discord while clarifying that lower pre-treatment dyadic discord may predict initial improvement in depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-790
Number of pages13
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • cognitive therapy
  • couples
  • depression
  • dyadic discord
  • marital satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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