The most commonly used treatment for the over 14 million Americans who suffer from Major Depressive Disorder is anti-depressant medication. While such medications bring relief to many, current research suggests that one size may not fit all when it comes to treating depression. Individually-tailored treatment — a combination of medication and psychotherapy, or psychotherapy alone — may provide better results. Given such findings, how can we determine which approach to use for a particular individual?
A recent study, co-authored by Paula Young, PhD, staff therapist and head of cognitive behavioral therapy services at The Family Institute at Northwestern University looked at just that question.
This randomized clinical trial, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Psychiatry, focused on a type of evidence-based psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is the most well-studied form of psychotherapy for depression and has been shown to be effective when used alone or in combination with medication. Patients receiving CBT work collaboratively with their therapists to learn specific skills to solve their problems and manage their emotions. In the study, patients were randomly assigned to receive treatment with either antidepressant medications alone or antidepressants combined with CBT.
In the study, patients were randomly assigned to treatment with either antidepressant medications alone or antidepressants combined with CBT. The results showed that recovery rates were substantially higher for patients with recurrent and severe depressions when antidepressant medications and CBT were combined.
"The results of this study suggest the importance of tailoring treatment for depression," says Dr. Young. The recovery rates for patients who received combination therapy were better than for those who received medication alone (72.6% vs 62.5%), and this difference was particularly pronounced for patients who had severe and recurrent depressions (81% vs. 51%). Patients receiving combination treatment also had fewer serious side effects.
Family Institute at Northwestern University