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CBT Alone Is Superior To Interpersonal Psychotherapy Even When It’s Combined With Medication For Major Depression

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: July 14, 2020

CBT Alone Is Superior Treatment For Major Depression image

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) continues to prove its efficacy in the treatment of mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, and now major depressive disorder.

The latest research published in Psychological Medicine by Cambridge University Press found that CBT alone is superior to Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and even when IPT is combined with antidepressant medications.[1]

The researchers sought to determine if CBT and IPT were equally effective treatments for major depressive disorder, including IPT combined with antidepressants.

Researchers systematically searched PsycArticles, PsycINFO, PubMed, and Cochrane Library through December 2017 for studies that assessed individuals with major depression receiving CBT or IPT in a face-to-face format both at pre- and post-treatment. Random-effects moderator meta-analyses were conducted.

168 samples from 137 studies, including 11,374 partipants, qualified for the meta-analytical review.

Results showed that CBT and IPT were equally effective across all but one prespecified moderators. For psychotherapy delivered without concomitant antidepressant treatment [antidepressant medications (ADMs)], CBT was superior to IPT (g = 1.68, Qbetweenp = 0.037). Within-CBT moderator analyses showed that increased CBT efficacy was associated with lower age, high initial depression severity, individual format of administration and no adjunctive ADMs. Within-IPT analyses showed comparable efficacy across all moderators.

This research concludes CBT alone is superior to IPT alone and to IPT combined with antidepressants, while IPT alone is equivalent to IPT combined with antidepressants.

Furthermore, CBT is superior treatment for major depressive disorder while IPT alone is just as effective as IPT with antidepressants.

This research throws into question the use of antidepressants in the optimum treatment of major depressive disorder since talk-therapy with and without medication showed no difference.

Since antidepressants have shown to be of minimal benefit for major depressive disorder,[2] researchers questioned the use of antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder by concluding, “Clinical guidance around combined treatment (psychotherapy plus ADMs) should be reconsidered.”

This research once again confirms talk-therapy out-performs medication in the treatment of many mental health disorders, including anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, and now major depression.


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1. Whiston, A., Bockting, C., & Semkovska, M. (2019). “Towards personalising treatment: A systematic review and meta-analysis of face-to-face efficacy moderators of cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy for major depressive disorder.” Psychological Medicine, 49(16), 2657-2668.

2. Jakobsen JC, Gluud C, Kirsch I. "Should antidepressants be used for major depressive disorder?" British Medical Journal, Aug 2019.