DEPRESSION
June 4, 2013

Pick a Therapy, Any Therapy

Thinking of talk therapy? Chances are it will help. Seven therapies are put to the test, and each is successful.

Many, if not most, people consider therapy at some point in their lives. They want to talk to someone to gain more insight and perspective on problems they are facing and to find relief from feelings of depression.

There are a number of different varieties of talk therapy available, and people seeking help for depression can be so paralyzed by the options that they never make a choice. New evidence suggests that the various types of psychotherapy all provide very successful treatments for depression.

So choosing any type of therapy (from a reputable mental health provider, of course) is the important thing when you’re dealing with depression, and far better than doing nothing at all.

Medication and talk therapy can each be effective, especially when used together, so talking to a mental health expert is the best first step.

A team of researchers in Switzerland looked back over data from 198 studies that included more than 15,000 patients being treated for depression. The studies offered information on seven different types of therapy: interpersonal psychotherapy, behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy, problem solving therapy, psychodynamic therapy, social skills training, and supportive counseling.

Researchers reviewed the studies to determine if certain methods were more effective than others in helping with the symptoms of depression, by comparing each type of therapy to the others, and to people who were waitlisted for treatment or had simply received information on the types of therapy available in their area or town.

The results: all seven types of therapy were equally good at helping people with depression. The authors found moderate to large improvements in mood for each variety of psychotherapy compared to those who received no help.

In studies with more participants, there was a slightly stronger effect for cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy, and smaller effects for psychodynamic therapy, supportive counseling, and behavioral activation.

Still, the differences were small, and the authors conclude that all of the forms of therapy are effective in treating depression. They do note that because placement on a waitlist, one of the control conditions, showed little effect, doing so in future studies should be considered unethical, since depression is a serious and debilitating condition.

If you’re suffering from depression, which about 20% of Americans do, getting help is the most important thing. Medication and talk therapy can each be effective, especially when used together.

So talking to a mental health expert is the best first step. The new research suggests that it doesn’t so much matter what kind of talk therapy a person offers, getting help is the critical element.

For immediate help in finding a mental health provider, visit the SAMHSA website.

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Bern, and published in PLOS Medicine.

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