More Than One Way To Treat Depression

Depression treated successfully by several different types of psychotherapies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D

(RxWiki News) There are a bunch of different types of therapies available to help people with depression. Some may help more than others, but any of the therapies tested in a new study may be better than none.

In a recent review, researchers looked at a large number of studies that tested seven different types of therapies to treat depression.

The results showed that all seven therapies were better than no therapy at all.

"Seek out a therapist for help with depression."

Jürgen Barth, PhD, from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland, led an investigation into non-pharmaceutical therapies for the treatment of depression.

“Depressive disorders are very common; about one-fifth of the population will be affected in their lifetime in high-income countries,” said the study authors.

There are many different kinds of psychotherapies that psychiatrists and psychologists use to treat patients with mental illness.

In this study, the researchers set out to evaluate the quality of seven different subtypes of psychotherapies for the treatment of depression.

The researchers looked closely at a total of 198 studies that included 15,118 adult patients with depression from the US, Europe, Australia and Canada. There were 9,314 patients treated with one of the seven psychotherapies and 5,805 patients not treated with any psychotherapy who were members of the comparison group.

The psychotherapies included the following:

  • Interpersonal psychotherapy: Short, structured sessions that focused on interpersonal issues.
  • Behavioral activation: Training sessions focused on improving social skills and actively engaging in social situations for the purposes of enjoying oneself.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: Therapist was focused on patient’s thought process and how to change dysfunctional thoughts to help the patient become better at functioning in society. The goal was to develop new ways of thinking and coping with stress.
  • Problem-solving therapy: Problems were defined and strategies and solutions were created to solve those problems.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: Focused on dealing with unresolved issues in the patient’s past.
  • Social skills training: Patients were taught skills to improve social functioning and interpersonal relationships.
  • Supportive counseling: No particular direction existed in this unstructured therapy beyond listening and providing empathy.

The researchers rated the therapeutic effects of each therapy as minor, moderate or strong/large.

The study authors found that all seven of the psychotherapies helped to moderately reduce symptoms of depression compared to no therapy.

The strongest improvements in depressive symptoms were found from cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and problem-solving therapy compared to no therapy.

Minor improvements in depressive symptoms were found from behavioral activation, psychodynamic therapy, social skills training and supportive counseling. However, the researchers did say that the benefits from interpersonal therapy appeared to strongly outweigh the minor benefits from supportive counseling.

Social skills training therapy was used in the fewest number of studies compared to the other psychotherapies, which made it difficult for the researchers to draw conclusions on its therapeutic outcomes.

“[E]ffect differences between these six psychotherapeutic interventions were rather small. Overall, we found that different psychotherapeutic interventions for depression have comparable, moderate-to-large effects,” the study authors wrote in their conclusion.

This study was published in May in PLOS ONE.

The Swiss National Science Foundation provided funding for this project. The Clinical Trials Unit of the Bern University Hospital has received funding from several major pharmaceutical companies, but the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 28, 2013
Last Updated:
August 9, 2013