Clinician's Digest II

Can Genes Predict Therapy Outcome?

November/December 2012

What if you could predict how well a client would respond to psychotherapy? What if a simple test could tell you whether a patient needed psychodynamic therapy instead of CBT? How much time, effort, and frustration would a glimpse into the future save you, your practice, and your patients? According to new research, genetic tests may hold the key for telling us what treatments work for whom.

Dubbed "therapygenetics," the investigation of genetic predictors of psychotherapy outcome is a brave new world for psychiatric research. Therapygenetics seeks to discover markers in our genetic code that we can use to create a road map for the prevention and treatment of mental illness. To date, scientists interested in mood and anxiety disorders have primarily focused on a specific genetic area known as the serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR). Serotonin is believed to affect a variety of bodily processes, including how hungry we feel, how well we sleep, and how much we want sex. Additionally, some experts believe that the ways our bodies use serotonin affects how we respond to and learn from emotional situations, making some of us more prone to lasting problems with anxiety and depression.

If our genes provide information about vulnerability to depression and anxiety disorders, can they tell us how someone will respond to treatment for the same problems? To find out, clinical researchers in the United Kingdom and Australia, led by professor Thalia…

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