The efficacy of psychological treatments for depression: a review of recent research findings
background Psychological treatments for depression have been shown to be effective, but there is room for improvement.
aim To summarise new research findings concerning the efficacy of psychological treatments for depression, as reported in a recent dissertation.
method Four systematic reviews and meta-analyses and one randomised clinical trial are described.
results As has been shown in the case of patients treated with antidepressants, the efficacy of psychological treatments for depression when compared to strict control conditions, might be greater in patients with more severe depressive symptoms than in patients with milder symptoms. The efficacy of psychological treatments for depression when compared to control conditions is overestimated as a result of systematic publication of positive findings, as has been reported with regard to antidepressant medication too. There is increasing academic support for the efficacy of brief psychodynamic therapy for depression and there are no differences in the efficacy of short-term psychodynamic supportive psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy for depression. Certain patient characteristics were found to be related to the differential efficacy of these two types of psychological treatments, but further validation is needed. A large number of patients with depression who seek help from second-line psychiatric clinics in the Netherlands fail to achieve remission following psychological treatment, irrespective of whether that treatment is combined with antidepressants.
conclusion Improved efficacy of psychological treatments for depression is urgently needed and can be facilitated by means of high quality research.