A New Form of Treatment for Depression Shows Promise

What’s New in Psychology?

A New Form of Treatment for Depression Shows Promise        

Jim Windell


            More than eight percent of American adults – that’s an estimated 21 people – have had at least one major depressive episode. Most of those experiencing depression sought treatment. Although antidepressant medications are not only popular but effective. Yet, talk therapy has also been found to be an extremely effective treatment for depression.

           But what form of talk therapy works best to reduce the symptoms of depression? Actually, research shows that all forms of psychotherapy work towards reducing depression and it is difficult to say which one therapeutic approach is best. Generally, the research in recent years has compared traditional talk therapy versus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

          A new study, though, suggests that a new talking therapy for depression could be more effective and cheaper than CBT. This study, published recently in Lancet EClinical Medicine, is based on a pilot study conducted at the University of Exeter in Exeter, Devon, England, and it reveals that Augmented Depression Therapy (ADepT) has the potential to be a notable progression in the field of depression treatment.

          The pilot study was the first randomized controlled trial conducted to assess the impact of ADepT. Eighty-two adults who were experiencing moderate to severe depression and demonstrated symptoms of anhedonia (diminished interest or pleasure) were included in the study. The participants were primarily recruited from the waiting lists of the National Health System Talking Therapy (formerly known as Improving Access to Psychological Therapy) service in Devon, UK. Through a random assignment process, the participants were divided into two groups: one receiving 20 individual sessions of ADepT and the other receiving CBT. The therapy sessions were conducted at the AccEPT clinic at the University of Exeter and were supported by Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Exeter Collaboration for Academic Primary Care (APEx), and the University of Exeter Psychology Department. The researchers evaluated the participants at the beginning of the pilot study and followed up with assessments at six, twelve, and eighteen months.

          Findings of this study indicated that ADepT was clearly not inferior to, and exhibited promise to surpass, CBT in fostering wellness and alleviating depression at treatment culmination and during extended follow-up. Results also indicated ADepT's cost-effectiveness was about the same as CBT, but also yielded superior enhancements in life quality.

          Researchers indicated that if these outcomes can be replicated in a subsequent conclusive study, it would imply that ADepT holds potential for both clinical and economic advantages within healthcare settings. Furthermore, ADepT has been devised to enable existing CBT practitioners to administer it with minimal supplementary instruction.

           According to Barney Dunn, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Exeter, who led this study, said that “Depression is a pervasive issue with significant global implications, causing substantial social and economic burdens. Despite our best current treatments like CBT, only approximately 60 percent of individuals achieve recovery, and nearly half of them experience relapse within two years.”

          Dunn went on to say that with ADepT, clients are encouraged to adopt a fresh perspective on their challenges with the aim of helping them to lead fulfilling lives even in the presence of depressive symptoms. “The primary objective is to assist clients in identifying their core values across important life domains, taking actionable steps towards aligning their actions with these values, and effectively navigating opportunities and challenges along the way to promote well-being and enjoyment,” added Dunn.

          To read the full study, find it with this reference:

Dunn, B.D., Widnall, E., Warbrick, L., Warner, F., Reed, N., Price, A., Kock, M., Courboin, C., Stevens, R., Wright, K., Moberly, N. J., Geschwind, N., Owens, C., Spencer, A., Campbell, J. & Kuyken, W. (2023). Preliminary clinical and cost effectiveness of augmented depression therapy versus cognitive behavioural therapy for the treatment of anhedonic depression (ADepT): a single-centre, open-label, parallel-group, pilot, randomised, controlled trial. EClinicalMedicine , 102084. 10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.102084

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