The percentage of people in the U.S. treated for depression
increased slightly over the last decade or so, but the popularity of psychotherapy dropped substantially, according to a study published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry. It found that in both 1998 and 2007, roughly 75 percent of people with depression were treated with drugs. But over that nine-year period, the percentage of people treated with psychotherapy dropped from 53.6 percent to 43.1 percent.
That’s too bad, since our report on treating depression found that psychotherapy, either alone or combined with antidepressants, can help ease depression. And unlike drugs, talk therapy poses no risk of potentially harmful side effects. In a survey of 1,544 Consumer Reports subscribers who’d sought treatment for depression, anxiety, or both, those who had talk therapy and stuck with it for at least seven sessions reported as much improvement as those who only took medication (though people who did both fared even better). Among the approaches with strong evidence of effectiveness: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you to change negative thoughts, assumptions, and behaviors that contribute to your feeling down.
The authors of the current study point out that it’s not possible to determine from the data why
fewer people got psychotherapy for depression. But they surmise that it may stem at least in part from a challenge many talk-therapy clients are all too familiar with: getting it covered by insurance, which tends to pay for antidepressants and other medications far more readily than it does psychotherapy.
—Jamie Hirsh, Associate Editor
Learn which depression therapies worked best for our readers, and see our depression treatment Ratings (for subscribers).