A new study confirms that the decades-long practice of talk therapy does, in fact, work for treating depression. But what at first seems like a pretty obvious research finding is surprisingly revealing: The premise of the study isn’t just to ask “does therapy work?”–it’s mostly to uncover the best cure for depression is for people who don’t respond to antidepressants.
The study, published in The Lancet, was aimed determining whether talk therapy would improve depression treatment in patients who were unresponsive to antidepressants alone. Researchers found that in a randomized controlled trial, talk therapy (or cognitive behavioral therapy–CBT) tripled the chances of positive response to depression treatment after six months, in comparison to treatment by antidepressants only.
In theory, their conclusion that talk therapy (or CBT) is beneficial to patients who don’t respond to antidepressants would mean that everyone should be in therapy for depression. But the study authors are quick to point out that in practice, many people can’t afford to pay for talk therapy and other psychological treatment at all–which I think is probably the most important message of their study.
I get that the costs of weekly visits to a therapist aren’t in many peoples’ budget, but antidepressants wouldn’t be either, if it weren’t for health insurance policies that cover them. If studies show that talk therapy is a better cure for depression, though, it seems worthwhile for insurance companies to revisit their policy–and for more companies to invest in therapy over medications. It’s a little sad to me that our society has so widely accepted taking a pill for every problem, that it’s made it difficult to go with other, sometimes more effective, methods of treating depression and other disease.
As obvious and unnecessary as studies like this might seem, it might actually be important to gather new data reminding people–and doctors, insurance companies, and public health officials–that natural cures like talk therapy are worth investing in; maybe even more so than pharmaceutical companies.
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