Psychotherapy alone and combined with pharmacotherapy in the treatment of depression

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Abstract

Background

The relative efficacy of psychotherapy and combined therapy in the treatment of depression is still a matter of debate.

Aims

To investigate whether combined therapy has advantages over psychotherapy alone.

Method

A 6-month randomised clinical trial compared Short Psychodynamic Supportive Psychotherapy (n=106) with combined therapy (n=85) in ambulatory patients with mild or moderate major depressive disorder diagnosed using DSM-IV criteria. Antidepressants were prescribed according to a protocol providing four successive steps in case of intolerance or inefficacy: venlafaxine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, nortriptyline and nortriptyline plus lithium. Efficacy was assessed using the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, the Clinical Global Impression of Severity and of Improvement, and the depression subscale of the Symptom Checklist.

Results

The advantages of combining antidepressants with psychotherapy were equivocal. Neither the treating clinicians nor the independent observers were able to ascertain them, but the patients experienced them clearly.

Conclusions

The advantages of combining antidepressants with psychotherapy are equivocal.

Declaration of interest

Supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Wyeth Nederland.

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