Sudden Gains Improve Long-Term Therapeutic Outcome

Every individual responds to therapy in their own way. Some people have sudden enlightenments during therapy, while others see a gradual reduction in symptoms little by little between their therapy sessions. These reductions in symptom severity are called sudden gains and are common among people receiving treatment for depression and anxiety. Previous research has shown that one of the biggest benefits of sudden gains is the residual effect they have. “Individuals who experienced sudden gains reported lower levels of depressive symptoms at post-treatment, 6 months following treatment and 18 months following treatment, compared with individuals who did not experience sudden gains,” said Idan M. Aderka of the Department of Psychology at Boston University, and lead author of a recent analysis of sudden gains. “These findings suggested that sudden gains were related to better treatment outcome at termination and at follow-up.”

Sudden gains are believed to be the result of cognitive changes achieved during cognitive behavioral therapy and other methods. “Importantly, in supportive-expressive therapy, cognitive changes were unrelated to sudden gains, but greater therapist interpretation accuracy was found to precede the gains,” said Aderka. “Sudden gains during the course of psychological treatment have been documented across diverse populations and interventions, and have been associated with better treatment outcome.”

After reviewing 16 studies that contained data from over 1,100 individuals being treated for anxiety or depression, Aderka found that sudden gains were achieved more often by those in cognitive therapy than those who were receiving other forms of treatment. Additionally, the sudden gains provided long-term benefits,that lasted after the treatment ended. “This suggests that the reason for the differences in effects may lie not in the gains themselves but rather in their influence on further improvements made in treatment,” said Aderka. He noted that these gains often lead to a positive cycle of behavior, called an upward spiral. “A possible explanation for our findings is that upward spirals occur in CBT interventions more than they occur in non-CBT interventions.” Aderka added, “Our findings suggest that CBT interventions may be especially successful in capitalizing on sudden gains and creating subsequent positive upward spirals.”

Aderka, I. M., Nickerson, A., Bøe, H. J., & Hofmann, S. G. (2011, November 28). Sudden Gains During Psychological Treatments of Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026455

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Deion

    December 5th, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    Yeah, it is easy to get bogged down when you are not making those gains, but seeing that progress gives you the drive to keep moving forward

  • ashley

    December 5th, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    a sudden gain is not just that..its also somethin’ that conveys to d person tht he’s makin’ an improvement,tht he’s gettin’ u a sense of being treated by the right person n by the right technique.n this kind of a feeling does wonders in d long term no doubt.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.