CBT Alone Is Superior Treatment For Major Depression

Written by Jim Folk
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Written by Jim Folk
Written by Jim Folk
Last updated June 23, 2021
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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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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

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References

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