What the Surgeon General's Report Says abour Psychotherapy and Counseling for Depression
Treatment of Major Depression Episodes
(Source: The following is information from the Surgeon General's report that pertains specifically to counseling and psychotherapy for depression. The information on psychopharmalogical treatment is lengthy and not included here. Click here to read the entire section of the report at the Surgeon General's site and to see the references.)
Psychotherapy and Counseling
Many people prefer psychotherapy or counseling over medication for treatment of depression (Roper, 1986; Seligman, 1995). Research conducted in the past two decades has helped to establish at least several newer forms of time-limited psychotherapy as being as effective as antidepressant pharmacotherapy in mild-to-moderate depressions (DiMascio et al., 1979; Elkin et al., 1989; Hollon et al., 1992; Depression Guideline Panel, 1993; Thase, 1995; Persons et al., 1996). The newer depression-specific therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy (Beck et al., 1979) and interpersonal psychotherapy (Klerman et al., 1984). These approaches use a time-limited approach, a present tense (“here-and-now”) focus, and emphasize patient education and active collaboration. Interpersonal psychotherapy centers around four common problem areas: role disputes, role transitions, unresolved grief, and social deficits. Cognitive-behavioral therapy takes a more structured approach by emphasizing the interactive nature of thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It also helps the depressed patient to learn how to improve coping and lessen symptom distress.
There is no evidence that cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy are differentially effective (Elkin et al., 1989; Thase, 1995). As reported earlier, both therapies appear to have some relapse prevention effects, although they are much less studied than the pharmacotherapies. Other more traditional forms of counseling and psychotherapy have not been extensively studied using a randomized clinical trial design (Depression Guideline Panel, 1993). It is important to determine if these more traditional treatments, as commonly practiced, are as effective as interpersonal psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The brevity of this section reflects the succinctness of the findings on the effectiveness of these interventions as well as the lack of differential responses and“side effects.” It does not reflect a preference or superiority of medication except in conditions such as psychotic depression where psychotherapies are not effective.
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