Thirty-six month outcome data from a trial of counselling with chronically depressed patients in a general practice setting

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Counsellors have been employed in general practice with little evidence of effectiveness in this setting. This randomized controlled trial examined long-term effectiveness of short-term counselling in general practice for patients with chronic depression, either alone or combined with anxiety. Participants were 181 patients recruited from nine general practitioners’ (GP) practices in Derbyshire by screening consecutive attenders using the Beck Depression Inventory. Both the experimental and control group received routine GP treatment but the experimental group were also referred to the practice counsellor. Depression and social adjustment were measured at baseline, 6, 12, and 36 months. There was an overall significant improvement in the actual scores over time, but there were no significant differences between the two groups on any of the measures at either 6, 12, or 36 months. Although fewer experimental group patients were still ‘cases’ on the BDI than controls at 6 and 12 months, this difference disappeared at 36 months. There was no evidence to demonstrate a long-term effect of improved outcomes in those referred to counselling.

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