Understanding mechanisms of change: An unpacking study of the evidence-based common-elements treatment approach (CETA) in low and middle income countries

Laura K. Murray, Emily Haroz, Shannon Dorsey, Jeremy Kane, Paul A. Bolton, Michael D. Pullmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is a recognized need to better understand “essential ingredients” of psychological treatments, and refine interventions to be more scalable and sustainable. The goal of the present study was to look within a specific modular, flexible, multi-problem transdiagnostic psychological intervention –the Common Elements Treatment Approach (CETA) - and examine questions that would lead to optimizing CETA for scale up and sustainment. Utilizing data from two trials of CETA in two different countries (Thailand and Iraq), this manuscript aims to: 1) determine the “active treatment dose” or how many sessions are needed to achieve clinically meaningful change overall, in CETA); and 2) test how trajectories of client symptom change varied based on client characteristics and/or on delivery of certain elements. Results showed that overall 50% of CETA clients show some improvement after 4–6 sessions (1 SD) and large improvement (2 SD) after 7–10 sessions. Trajectories of change show steady symptom decline over time. Results support gradual exposure as one of the “active ingredients”. Findings suggest that modular, flexible transdiagnostic models may allow for more efficient, targeted treatment as we gain more knowledge about key ingredients, their timing within treatment, and client outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103430
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dismantling
  • Low and middle income countries
  • Low resource settings
  • PTSD
  • Transdiagnostic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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