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Cognitive behavioural therapy equally effective in treating all severities of depression

Patients with severe depression can get as much benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as those with mild or moderate depression, new study results suggest. 

Patients with severe depression can get as much benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as those with mild or moderate depression, new study results suggest. 


The study found that patients who were severely depressed responded just as
well to CBT as those with mild or moderate depression. Picture: iStock

A team of international researchers analysed data from 509 patients who took part in five clinical trials of CBT for depression. They found that patients who were severely depressed responded just as well as those with mild or moderate depression. 

Traditionally, people with severe depression have been treated with medication, as CBT was not thought to be effective for this group.

But the researchers said the difference in efficacy between medication and CBT across the wide range of severity was ‘small enough to allow value judgements and preferences of individual patients to play a major role in treatment decision-making. Patients and their clinicians can expect as much benefit from CBT for major depression across its wide range of baseline severity from mild through to severe,’ they said. 


Furukawa TA et al (2017) Initial severity of depression and efficacy of cognitive–behavioural therapy: individual-participant data meta-analysis of pill-placebo-controlled trials. The British Journal of Psychiatry. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.116.187773

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