Psychotherapy Treatment for Depression

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Study results published in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine found no difference among seven forms of psychotherapy – also commonly referred to as talk therapy – to treat depression.

According to this study, all forms of psychotherapy, including interpersonal, behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy, problem solving therapy, psychodynamic therapy, social skills therapy and supportive counseling, help patients with depression in one way or another.

Study Design and Results

Researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland performed a network meta-analysis on a total of 198 studies that focused on various psychotherapy treatments for depression. These studies included a total of 15,118 patients and compared one of the seven psychotherapies either with another one or with a common “control intervention,” which in most cases was the deferral of treatment by “wait-listing” patients or continuing “usual care.”

This analysis found that all seven psychotherapies were better than “wait-listing” or “usual care,” meaning that the average person in the group that received the psychotherapy was better off than about half of the patients in the control group. When comparing the seven psychotherapies to one another, the researchers found small or no differences among them.

Seven Types of Psychotherapy Examined

In this study, researchers examined seven types of psychotherapy:

  • Interpersonal Therapy uses a manual to focus on interpersonal issues in highly structured, short sessions.
  • Behavioral Activation raises awareness of pleasant activities and increases positive interactions between the patient and the environment.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on turning negative beliefs into positive behaviors, changing a person’s overall outlook on future behavior.
  • Problem Solving Therapy aims to define the problems a patient is facing and offer solutions to those problems.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy focuses on past unsolved conflicts and the impact they have on the patient's current frame of mind.
  • Social Skills Therapy teaches skills that help build and maintain healthy relationships based on honesty and respect.
  • Supportive Counseling aims to get patients to talk about their emotions and offers empathy without suggesting solutions or teaching new skills.
  • Key Takeaway

    This analysis suggests that not all treatments – including psychotherapy – will work for all patients. Patients with depression need to work closely with their healthcare providers to explore which, if any, psychotherapy may work for them on an individual basis.

    Source: PLOS Medicine


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