A doctor explains treatment options to a depressive patient. © Peera/stock.adobe.com

A doctor explains treatment options to a depressive patient. © Peera/stock.adobe.com

What impact does medical information have on the outcome of treatment for depression?

The success of treatment for depression is not only dependent on the efficacy of the medication but also influenced by personal patient expectations and convictions. These attitudes are based partly on the information they receive from their doctor. How can doctors make conscious use of this communicative influence to improve the treatment outcome and reduce side effects?

Research summary

The modulating effect of communicated reasons for treatment on the expectations of depressive patients

Using two interventions (pharmacological or psychological), this project will systematically manipulate the treatment expectations of patients with depression by providing either a biological or a psychological explanation of the disease. The 2x2 factorial design enables both factors to be investigated individually and interactively for their effect on treatment outcome and the development of side effects and discontinuation symptoms.

Recommended reading:

Kube T, Rief W, Gollwitzer M, Gaertner T, Glombiewski JA (2019) Why dysfunctional expectations in major depression persist – Results from two experimental studies investigating cognitive immunization. Psychol Med. 49 1532-1544. PubMed

Rief W, Barsky AJ, Bingel U, Doering B, Schwarting R, Wöhr M, Schweiger U (2016) Rethinking psychopharmacotherapy: The role of treatment context and brain plasticity in antidepressant and antipsychotic interventions. Neurosc & Biobehav Rev 60 51-64. PubMed

Rief W, v Lilienfeld-Toal A, Nestoriuc Y, Hofmann SG, Barsky A, Avorn J (2009) Differences in adverse effect reporting in placebo groups in SSRI and tricyclic antidepressant trials. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Drug Safety. 32 1041-56. PubMed

In close cooperation with these projects



Do positive expectations improve the effect of antidepressants?

Prof. Dr. Tilo Kircher
PD Dr. Irina Falkenberg



How is the effect of antidepressants influenced by treatment experiences?

Prof. Dr. Markus Wöhr
Prof. Dr. Rainer K.W. Schwarting


Project Lead

Prof. Dr. Winfried Rief

Prof. Dr. Winfried Rief
Psychologist, Psychological Psychotherapist


Dr. Marcel Wilhelm
Postdoc, Psychologist, Psychological Psychotherapist

Liv Caro Henrich
Psychologist, PhD Student, Psychotherapist in Training

Philipp Lange
Psychologist, PhD Student, Psychotherapist in Training