Depression affects at least 1 in 10 Americans at one point during their life, yet 80% of people who experience the symptoms of clinical depression are likely to not receive any treatment for the condition. Even more troubling, many of those who receive treatment prioritize their drug treatment while not receiving or not following up with counseling and behavioral therapy that can greatly improve the treatment.
That behavioral therapy is often thought of as secondary, but it is an essential aspect of treatment that determines the chance of recovery. This is confirmed by a new study from the UT Southwestern Medical Center which shows that cognitive behavioral therapy in addition to medication improves the long-term success of treatment for children and adolescents suffering from depression.
When compared with those who received medication alone, the results of the study also showed that depression relapse rates were substantially lower in youth participants.
“Continuation-phase strategies designed to reduce the high rates of relapse in depressed youths have important public health implications, as recurrence of depression is more likely in youths with multiple episodes,” said Dr. Betsy Kennard, Professor of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study published June 17 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
Youths with major depressive disorders typically face relapse rates areound 40 percent to 70 percent, said Dr. Kennard, who also serves as Director of an outpatient program at Children’s Medical Center called Suicide Prevention and Resilience at Children’s (SPARC).
Meanwhile the 75 youth participating in the study who received behavioral therapy for six months following six weeks of initial treatment with the antidepressant fluoxetine – better known as Prozac – was only 9 percent. Among the group who received only medication treatment showed relapse rates of 26.5 percent.
“Unfortunately, medication alone is not always enough to prevent relapse,” said Dr. Graham Emslie, Chief of the Division of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry, Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern, and a contributing author of the study. “Identifying novel strategies to prevent future relapses for young people should be a priority. This approach is unique in that treatment was added at a time when the intensity of care is frequently decreasing.”