Talk therapy to treat depression might not be as effective as we are led to believe by scientific literature.
A new research coming from the Vanderbilt University in Amsterdam, Netherlands found that talk therapy has been pitched as a greatly beneficial treatment for depression simply because there is a bias in scientific literature for positive results in the detriment of less successful studies.
Poor results are typically avoided by specialty journals and thus a public bias also occurs. Depression treatments that include interpersonal therapy or cognitive behavior were found to be 25 percent less effective in the new research than it was previously stated.
Talk therapy is not the only depression treatment the results of which have been overstated. Using medication to treat depression was found to be less effective than previously stated as well. The percentage in this case is also estimated at 25. The new findings in the case of depression medication are also explained by bias in the new research.
The Vanderbilt University study, led by Ellen Driessen and published in the PLOS ONE journal is eye-opening. It should re-scale the balance of expectations of both therapists and patients and shed new light on which course of treatment should be preferred.
In the United States, there are in between five and six million people to are treated for depression. All of them follow psychotherapy sessions and a large majority is also under antidepressant medication, according to a survey. As per the results of the new research, the added benefit of talk therapy in treating depression amounts to approximately 20 percent. Before, it was estimated at 30 percent higher chances of improving one’s recovery perspectives.
In this regard, Jelte Wicherts, associate professor with the Tilburg University Department of Methodology and Statistics, unassociated with the study, stated:
“We need to seriously consider publishing all completed studies”.
This would be necessary to improve patients’ chances of a full recovery from often debilitating depression. The 10 percent difference explained above indicates that in reality there is a high number of patients who don’t necessarily benefit from talk therapy. Or at least not talk therapy alone.
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