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Cognitive behavioral therapy can help ease depressive symptoms when antidepressants fail, study finds

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11 2012 9:43 a.m. MST

Patients with depression who don't respond to antidepressants could find relief from their symptoms by the addition of talk therapy, a new study says.

"It is well recognized that only about a third of patients respond fully to antidepressants," ABC News reported. "But there's little evidence as to next-step treatment for these nonresponders, particularly with regard to (cognitive behavioral therapy)."

The report was published Dec. 7 online in The Lancet.

Researchers randomly assigned more than 400 people suffering from depression to six weeks of antidepressant therapy, in addition to their medication. Some received cognitive behavioral therapy, while others did not.

Six months into the study, the study showed that 46 percent of those receiving CBT improved, while 22 percent of those on medication alone showed improvement.

The results were consistent a year later, the researchers noted.

"When people with depression have not responded to treatment with antidepressants, receiving cognitive behavioral therapy in addition to continuing on medication as part of usual care, reduces depressive symptoms and improves quality of life," said lead researcher Nicola Wiles, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Bristol (United Kingdom).

There is no "one-size-fits-all" treatment for those with mental health problems, Paul Farmer, chief executive at the mental health charity Mind, told BBC. "We welcome this research because it recognizes that patients should have the right to a wide range of treatment options based on individual needs."

Cognitive behavioral therapy is often suggested as the next-step treatment option for patients in primary care who haven't responded to antidepressants, Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, told U.S. News. "These results should provide hope to a wide range of depressed patients who are initially prescribed an antidepressant but fail to respond fully to it."

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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