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Study: Cognitive behavioural therapy may be as effective as medication

While people with moderate-to-severe depression are often initially treated with antidepressant medications, a study published in General Psychiatry provides further evidence of the benefits of a type of therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy, which aims to change a patient's negative thought patterns, without drug therapy.

"It appears that cognitive behavioral therapy can be as effective as medications," write the study's authors.

In the study, which included 240 people with moderate-to-severe depression, half were treated with the antidepressant medication paroxetine (Paxil) along with either lithium or the tricyclic antidepressant desipramine, if needed. Of the remaining 120, half received a placebo and half participated in cognitive therapy but received no medication.

After 16 weeks, the researchers found the cognitive therapy to be as effective as the medication, but with a lower rate of relapse. But they noted that the effectiveness of psychotherapy may vary according to the experience or expertise of the psychotherapist.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Leaving aside the methodological problems with this study (e.g., why only Paxil, which is arguably not the most effective medication for depression? why were certain subjects on additional medications, especially lithium? how many were bipolar rather than unipolar depression?), I'm not sure what it adds to our knowledge of the treatment of depression.

There has been no doubt for at least two decades that cognitive behavior therapy is an effective treatment for depression. It is also clear from several studies that the most effective treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, OCD, etc., is a combination of medication and psychotherapy and that the two components together are more effective than either alone.
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