Psychotherapy for Depression in Adults: A Meta-Analysis of Comparative Outcome Studies

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Abstract

Although the subject has been debated and examined for more than 3 decades, it is still not clear whether all psychotherapies are equally efficacious. The authors conducted 7 meta-analyses (with a total of 53 studies) in which 7 major types of psychological treatment for mild to moderate adult depression (cognitive-behavior therapy, nondirective supportive treatment, behavioral activation treatment, psychodynamic treatment, problem-solving therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and social skills training) were directly compared with other psychological treatments. Each major type of treatment had been examined in at least 5 randomized comparative trials. There was no indication that 1 of the treatments was more or less efficacious, with the exception of interpersonal psychotherapy (which was somewhat more efficacious; d = 0.20) and nondirective supportive treatment (which was somewhat less efficacious than the other treatments; d = −0.13). The drop-out rate was significantly higher in cognitive-behavior therapy than in the other therapies, whereas it was significantly lower in problem-solving therapy. This study suggests that there are no large differences in efficacy between the major psychotherapies for mild to moderate depression.

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