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Therapy as Good as Drugs for Depression

Learning How to Cope Has Lasting Effects


Among the patients who had been on medication, 60% of those who remained on medication avoided relapse. However, among those who were receiving a placebo, only 19% were relapse-free.

"Because the patients who had been in therapy were required to stop treatment, they were comparable to the subjects receiving medication who were switched to placebo," DeRubeis told WebMD. "The therapy patients learned something that would protect them through the year. One could say that a course of cognitive therapy does to your brain what staying on medication does."

"This study shows that there's more than one way to skin a cat," Carl C. Bell, MD, told WebMD. "If you're depressed, you can take a medication and get better. There's another choice: You can do some inner homework in the form of cognitive therapy and get better. You can also do both. You have a choice to fit your preferences." Bell, professor of psychiatry and public health at the University of Illinois in Chicago, was not involved in the study.

Bell urged patients with severe depression to be active participants in their care and to let their providers know what their preferences are.

"Ideally there would be a win-win partnership between the patient and the provider to talk about treatment choices, and to talk about lifestyle, and determine together what fits best for the patient," he told WebMD. "Remember, the patient is the one who hires the doctor. They ought to be the one to direct the doctor in their best interest. The doctor is not the patient's boss; the patient is the doctor's boss. Unfortunately, some doctors forget that, and unfortunately, some patients don't know that. We hope that patients and doctors will be able to develop a partnership that focuses on the patient's healthcare as the basic value."

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