What is the Evidence for Psychological Interventions for Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Research Paper Title

Psychological interventions for antisocial personality disorder.

Background

Antisocial personality disorder (AsPD) is associated with poor mental health, criminality, substance use and relationship difficulties.

This review updates Gibbon 2010 (previous version of the review).

To evaluate the potential benefits and adverse effects of psychological interventions for adults with AsPD.

Methods

The researchers searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, 13 other databases and two trials registers up to 5 September 2019. They also searched reference lists and contacted study authors to identify studies.

Randomised controlled trials of adults, where participants with an AsPD or dissocial personality disorder diagnosis comprised at least 75% of the sample randomly allocated to receive a psychological intervention, treatment-as-usual (TAU), waiting list or no treatment.

The primary outcomes were aggression, reconviction, global state/functioning, social functioning and adverse events.

The researchers used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane.

Results

  • This review includes 19 studies (eight new to this update), comparing a psychological intervention against TAU (also called ‘standard Maintenance'(SM) in some studies).
  • Eight of the 18 psychological interventions reported data on the primary outcomes.
  • Four studies focussed exclusively on participants with AsPD, and 15 on subgroups of participants with AsPD.
  • Data were available from only 10 studies involving 605 participants.
  • Eight studies were conducted in the UK and North America, and one each in Iran, Denmark and the Netherlands.
  • Study duration ranged from 4 to 156 weeks (median = 26 weeks).
  • Most participants (75%) were male; the mean age was 35.5 years.
  • Eleven studies (58%) were funded by research councils.
  • Risk of bias was high for 13% of criteria, unclear for 54% and low for 33%.
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) + TAU versus TAU One study (52 participants) found no evidence of a difference between CBT + TAU and TAU for physical aggression (odds ratio (OR) 0.92, 95% CI 0.28 to 3.07; low-certainty evidence) for outpatients at 12 months post-intervention.
  • One study (39 participants) found no evidence of a difference between CBT + TAU and TAU for social functioning (mean difference (MD) -1.60 points, 95% CI -5.21 to 2.01; very low-certainty evidence), measured by the Social Functioning Questionnaire (SFQ; range = 0-24), for outpatients at 12 months post-intervention.
  • Impulsive lifestyle counselling (ILC) + TAU versus TAU One study (118 participants) found no evidence of a difference between ILC + TAU and TAU for trait aggression (assessed with Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire-Short Form) for outpatients at nine months (MD 0.07, CI -0.35 to 0.49; very low-certainty evidence).
  • One study (142 participants) found no evidence of a difference between ILC + TAU and TAU alone for the adverse event of death (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.04 to 4.54; very low-certainty evidence) or incarceration (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.27 to 1.86; very low-certainty evidence) for outpatients between three and nine months follow-up.
  • Contingency management (CM) + SM versus SM One study (83 participants) found evidence that, compared to SM alone, CM + SM may improve social functioning measured by family/social scores on the Addiction Severity Index (ASI; range = 0 (no problems) to 1 (severe problems); MD -0.08, 95% CI -0.14 to -0.02; low-certainty evidence) for outpatients at six months. ‘Driving whilst intoxicated’ programme (DWI) + incarceration versus incarceration.
  • One study (52 participants) found no evidence of a difference between DWI + incarceration and incarceration alone on reconviction rates (hazard ratio 0.56, CI -0.19 to 1.31; very low-certainty evidence) for prisoner participants at 24 months.
  • Schema therapy (ST) versus TAU One study (30 participants in a secure psychiatric hospital, 87% had AsPD diagnosis) found no evidence of a difference between ST and TAU for the number of participants who were reconvicted (OR 2.81, 95% CI 0.11 to 74.56, P = 0.54) at three years.
  • The same study found that ST may be more likely to improve social functioning (assessed by the mean number of days until patients gain unsupervised leave (MD -137.33, 95% CI -271.31 to -3.35) compared to TAU, and no evidence of a difference between the groups for overall adverse events, classified as the number of people experiencing a global negative outcome over a three-year period (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.08 to 2.19).
  • The certainty of the evidence for all outcomes was very low.
  • Social problem-solving (SPS) + psychoeducation (PE) versus TAU One study (17 participants) found no evidence of a difference between SPS + PE and TAU for participants’ level of social functioning (MD -1.60 points, 95% CI -5.43 to 2.23; very low-certainty evidence) assessed with the SFQ at six months post-intervention.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy versus TAU One study (skewed data, 14 participants) provided very low-certainty, narrative evidence that DBT may reduce the number of self-harm days for outpatients at two months post-intervention compared to TAU.
  • Psychosocial risk management (PSRM; ‘Resettle’) versus TAU One study (skewed data, 35 participants) found no evidence of a difference between PSRM and TAU for a number of officially recorded offences at one year after release from prison.
  • It also found no evidence of difference between the PSRM and TAU for the adverse event of death during the study period (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.05 to 14.83, P = 0.94, 72 participants (90% had AsPD), 1 study, very low-certainty evidence).

Conclusions

There is very limited evidence available on psychological interventions for adults with AsPD.

Few interventions addressed the primary outcomes of this review and, of the eight that did, only three (CM + SM, ST and DBT) showed evidence that the intervention may be more effective than the control condition.

No intervention reported compelling evidence of change in antisocial behaviour.

Overall, the certainty of the evidence was low or very low, meaning that the researchers have little confidence in the effect estimates reported.

The conclusions of this update have not changed from those of the original review, despite the addition of eight new studies.

This highlights the ongoing need for further methodologically rigorous studies to yield further data to guide the development and application of psychological interventions for AsPD and may suggest that a new approach is required.

Reference

Gibbon, S., Khalifa, N.R., Cheung, N.H-Y., Vollm, B.A. & McCarthy, L. (2020) Psychological interventions for antisocial personality disorder. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007668.pub3.

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