There's a certain machismo attached to psychiatry. Friendly counselling may be fine when you have a patient with mild depression, but cases of severe depression need drugs, and quickly, goes the line.
Unfortunately the 'hit-'em-hard' approach doesn't stack up with the evidence. Researchers have discovered that counselling, and especially cognitive therapy, works just as well as drugs in cases of even the most severe depression.
To test the theory, a research team divided up 240 patients with severe major depression to either receive drug therapy or cognitive therapy for 16 weeks, or placebo, or a 'sugar pill', for 8 weeks. At the end of the study period response rates in the drug and cognitive therapy groups were identical, and both far outstripped the placebo group.
The drug therapy group fared far better at just one centre, making the researchers conclude that cognitive therapy can be as effective as drugs only when the therapist was skilled or experienced.
In a separate study, researchers discovered that antidepressants were effective only while they were being taken. The patient's depression returned almost as soon as he came off the drug, while those who had undergone cognitive therapy enjoyed long-lasting respite from depression. Just 30 per cent of patients who had received cognitive therapy suffered a relapse, compared with 76 per cent who suffered a return of their depression once they stopped taking medication.
* If you're depressed, there's much more you can do than just drugs or therapy. In fact, there are many ways to combat depression and other mental problems - and there are just as many to maintain good mental health. All are revealed in the WDDTY Guide to Mental Health, a must-read for anyone who wants to keep healthy mentally, and without the aid of drugs. To order your copy, click here: http://www.wddty.co.uk/shop/details.asp?product=19