Depression, Antidepressants, and Psychotherapy: A Changing Relationship

There are many different opinions about whether psychotherapy, antidepressants, or a combination of the two is the most appropriate response to depression. As with most debated topics, there’s no single answer that applies to all people. But we do know that medication without therapy is generally the least effective: most people respond best to either therapy alone or therapy in partnership with antidepressants, at least for awhile. Repeated studies have shown the combined approach to be preferable for most patients.

Both psychotherapy and medications have played a changing role over time. Decades ago, therapy was considered ineffective and was widely dismissed; today it’s the first thing recommended for those facing depression, anxiety, or emotional turbulence in general. Not surprisingly, the public attitude toward medication is constantly evolving as well. For example, the number of kids prescribed stimulants for ADHD is on a steady rise, while the number of kids prescribed antidepressants is going down. This second fact comes from a recent report on depression among children and teens. After the FDA issued warnings that antidepressants could increase suicidal thoughts or actions in children and adolescents, both of those groups experienced a decrease in antidepressant use and an increase in psychotherapy.

Among adults, the use of antidepressants is also dropping, but not in the way you’d expect. According to a study published in European Psychiatry, the majority of people being treated for depression stop taking prescribed medication before it’s recommended that they do so. (No data was given on whether these patients were also involved in psychotherapy, and whether they continued to see a therapist as advised.) If a person is prescribed antidepressants and wishes to incorporate them into their depression treatment plan, it’s usually recommended that they take them for at least six months, so they really have a chance to work. But by even four months in, 56% of people had stopped with the treatment. It’s unclear whether they stopped because they felt better, saw no change, or felt worse. But one is clear: as our understanding of both therapy and medication progresses, our attitudes of each will continue to evolve as well.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Steve h

    December 3rd, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    Therapy was definitely the best step for me! Better than the meds for sure

  • natalie d

    December 3rd, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    as far as I can see it,a combination if the two is good and as we progress through years the share of therapy in this combination is only going to increase and that of pharmaceuticals is going to decline.
    although this does seen like the best thing to happen,I really doubt it will because all those large pharmaceutical companies are notngoing to like this!

  • PL

    December 3rd, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    My vote goes to therapy…And you know why? Its because people cannot get addicted to therapy as some people do to meds…At least we’ll have no more pillheads!

  • Amy

    December 5th, 2010 at 7:15 AM

    I took Prozac for a while and really noticed a difference in my mood. I do not know if it was the actual medication or if I just felt like I should be feeling better as a result of taking it. But it has been good for me to know that there is an option for me that helped my mood to improve and to feel better about life in general of I ever get to this point again. When I begun the medication I was at a very low and dark point, everything felt hopeless. This is something that I never wish to go through again!

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