Can Psychotherapy Help Major Depression?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported in 2019 that 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. Within this number, adult females (8.7%) had higher prevalence rates that adult males (5.3%), and young adults were the highest age demographic (13.1%). As such, major depression is one of the most common disorders in the United States. Symptoms include persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, irritability, decreased energy, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling restless, and a loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Treatment for major depression has evolved. Psychotherapy and medication management prove to be the most robust manner of decreasing depression. However, many Americans struggle to consult the use of psychiatric medications, and prefer to try therapy first. This preference is within reason, as psychotherapy alone has proven capable in relieving symptoms of major depression. Psychotherapy provides clientele with coping skills and strategies, differing perspectives on mental anguish, increased insight into the origins of suffering, a helpful relationship, and a place to process and reflect on the distressing aspects of our lives.
A systemic review of 15 randomized controlled trials consisting of 1716 patients reported that brief psychotherapy (12 to 20 sessions) is an effective treatment for the acute-phase treatment of depression (Nieuwsma et al., 2012). In other words, the onset of a major depressive episode can be actively remedied with the assistance of brief therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), general counseling, and problem-solving therapy (PST). Specific populaces of individuals such as children and parents are shown to benefit from psychotherapy treatment. A review of nine studies indicated that psychotherapy leads to decreased depression in depressed mothers and positive mental health outcomes for their children, parenting, and marital distress (Cuijpers et al., 2015). Forty years of research has shown that such relief from depression provided from psychotherapy can endure for up to and beyond 6 to 12 months post-treatment, providing new direction and meaning to many clientele (Cuijpers, 2017). Elder adults, an often neglected community of clientele in psychotherapy research, have shown lasting change in well-being after psychotherapy (Larsen et al., 2020). Psychotherapy has proven robust across race/ethnicities as well. A review of psychotherapy effectiveness for depressed Latinos indicated 88% of patients endorsed decreased depression ratings post-treatment when enrolled in CBT, PST or Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) (Collado et al., 2016). Major depressive symptoms are further exacerbated by co-morbid disorders. This could include anxiety disorders, substance-use, personality disorders, and more. Psychotherapy has also proven effective in treatment individuals who suffer from major depressive episodes and co-morbid diagnoses. In fact, marked improvements at and beyond the 12-month follow up are observed for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety related disorders (Saloheimo et al., 2016).
Needless to say, major depression is a painful life experience that detracts from fulfilling, meaningful living. Unfortunately, major depression can escalate to a perception of futility, resulting in suicidal thoughts and actions. If you are feeling suicidal and if your major depression has escalated to a point where you cannot guarantee your safety, please consult with your nearby psychiatric hospital. Hospital staff will place you in contact with outpatient resources that can enroll you in psychotherapy services so you can work towards a healthier lifestyle. If you, or someone you love, is suffering from major depression and would like to seek psychotherapy services, please consider consulting with the clinicians at Town Center Psychology. You are not alone!
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.
Collado, A., Lim, A. C., & MacPherson, L. (2016). A systematic review of depression psychotherapies among latinos. Clinical Psychology Review, 45, 193-209. doi: 10.1016/j.epr.2016.04.001
Cuijpers, P., Weitz, E., Karyotaki, E., Garber, J., & Andersson, G. (2015). The effects of psychological treatment of maternal depression on children and parental functioning: A meta-analysis. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 24, 237-245.
Cuijpers, P. (2017). Four decades of outcome research on psychotherapies for adult depression: An overview of a series of meta-analyses. Canadian Psychology, 58, 7-19. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cap0000096
Larsen, L., Christoffersen, M., & Vedel, A. (2020). Psychotherapy improves the well-being of elderly dannish care recipients. GeroPsych, 33, 67-76. https://doi.org/10.1024/1662-9647/a000223
Nieuwsma, J. A., Trivedi, R. B., McDuffie, J., Kronish, I., Benjamin, D., & Williams Jr., J. W. (2012). Brief psychotherapy for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Psychiatry, 43, 129-151.
Saloheimo, H. P., Markowitz, J., Saloheimo, T. H., Latinen, J. J., Huttunen, M. O., Aro, T. O., Mikkonen, T. N., & Katila, H. O. (2016). Psychotherapy effectiveness for major depression: A randomized trial in a Finnish community. BMC Psychiatry, 16, 1-9. doi: 10.1186/s12888-016-0838-1