A team of researchers at University College London, led by John Cape, have undertaken an ambitious meta-analysis of 34 studies (covering 2963 patients) to compare different types of treatment for depression and anxiety. The studies measured the effectiveness of several types of therapy in relation to depression, anxiety, and a combination of the two. The therapies addressed included brief cognitive behavioral therapy from a primary care physician, extended cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and problem solving therapy.
The results found that for anxiety disorders, cognitive behavioral therapy was effective; for both depression and depression-anxiety overlap, cognitive behavioral therapy, problem solving therapy, and counseling were equally effective. Beyond these broad conclusions, the study looked particularly at whether brief cognitive behavioral therapy (approximately six weeks in length) conducted by a primary care professional would have any benefit for patients dealing with depression and anxiety. The result was that yes, even brief therapy is effective. However, while brief therapy was effective, the research strongly indicates that longer therapy and counseling from a secondary care professional (such as a psychotherapist or psychologist) was even more effective.
This suggests that training physicians (who often refer patients to psychotherapists anyway) in cognitive behavioral therapy can have a positive outcome for patients, as it provides a direct source for treatment with a doctor they may already see regularly to begin with. However, for strong or long-lasting anxiety or depression, turning to a licensed therapist who specializes specifically in helping patients overcome anxiety and depression is an even more effective way of addressing the problem. Licensed therapists have the experience and specialization to help work with patients on a variety of therapies (cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, problem solving therapy, and others). Even more importantly, a good therapist can help determine which type of treatment will be most helpful for each individual patient.
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