Cutting Edge Psychology

Psychological treatments for depression

Posted on May 29, 2013 at 8:35 PM


I am often asked what type of psychotherapy/counselling people should seek out as a treatment for depression. It is a market place of ideas, and plenty of approaches to choose from out there. This range of choices can be confusing for suffering people, especially when practitioners promote their own favoured approach by devaluing all other approaches. As an example, for the last 2-3 decades, advocates of CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) have over stated the effectiveness of their preferred approach, while at the same time devaluing and even attacking most other approaches. They have claimed to have the research evidence on their side. However, evidence coming out in the last couple of years reveals:- the claims of CBT have been over-stated (it is actually no more effective than any other approach); and approaches which were the target of their criticisms (eg. psychoanalytic and other depth-psychology approaches) actually have evidence in their favour. I had the experience a couple of years ago of a local CBT psychologist ringing me to critically question my use of other approaches (her customised number plate even included the letters:- CBT).

As such, i have been telling people for several years that most, if not all, psychological approaches to treating depression are equally effective- psychotherapy achieves moderate to strong results, when compared to people suffering the same problems but not receiving psychotherapy. As such, what type of psychotherapy to seek out should really be determined by the type of person seeking the help, and the type of help on offer. Some approaches will suit some people, but not others. For example, a person who is somewhat fearful of getting into the depths of their emotions could be better served by seeing a CBT practitioner who shares this preference- the intervention will remain on thinking styles which are presumed to be related to the distressed emotions. However, a person who is seeing a potential influence of their background life experiences in their current problems is likely to be better served by seeing a psychologist who is also willing to delve into the past and the associated emotions. Depth psychology approaches, as well as EMDR and Coherence Therapy, are likely to be most helpful for such a person.

The important thing to aim for is a fit between the person seeking the help and the person providing it, along with the approach they are using. This means that people should become well informed consumers of psychological services- become informed about what the different approaches offer, and get informed about the person providing it- ask them. Not all psychotherapies are the same.

The attached research report demonstrates the lack of difference in outcome between different psychotherapy approaches.

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