CBT success depends on number of depression episodes

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is most effective in patients who have had four or more prior episodes of depression, Dutch research suggests.

Photograph: JH Lancy
Photograph: JH Lancy

The findings suggest that GPs could use the number of prior episodes to determine which patients are likely to benefit the most from CBT.

For the study, researchers studied 208 patients, aged 18-70, who were receiving treatment for depression from their GP.

Patients who had three or fewer prior episodes of depression did not show any significant improvements with CBT.

However, patients who had four or more prior episodes of depression responded positively to CBT.

The researchers, from the University Medical Centre in Groningen, concluded: ‘GPs may consider the number of previous depressive episodes, which is a strong predictor of an unfavourable course of depression, as a treatment indicator in order to optimise allocation of scarce treatment capacity.’


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