Nondrug Treatment of Depression, Which is Best?
Many people with depression turn to nondrug treatments because antidepressants and other drugs are often not effective and they cause significant side effects. If you have wondered which nondrug treatment of depression is best, a new study has tackled that question.
What is talking therapy?
Among the conventional nondrug treatments for depression are seven different forms of talking therapy, which also are referred to collectively as psychotherapy. These forms include behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, problem solving therapy, psychodynamic therapy, social skills training, and supportive counseling.
According to a research team at the University of Bern in Switzerland, all of these forms of talking therapy, which they evaluated by reviewing 198 published studies that included more than 15,000 patients, are similarly effective in the treatment of depression. Generally, all seven therapies were
- Better than being on a waiting list for therapy
- Better than usual care
- Equally effective regardless of the types of patients treated: for example, young, old, women with postpartum depression
- Similar when comparing face-to-face with group therapy or internet-based interventions
It should be noted that only 36 of the studies had at least 50 individuals who underwent the same treatment for depression. When the reviewers examined these studies alone, they noticed clear benefits for cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem solving therapy over the other four forms.
Overall, the authors of the study noted “we found that different psychotherapeutic interventions for depression have comparable, moderate-to-large effects.”
Seven types of talk therapy
Here’s a quick description of the seven types of talk therapy. If you want to pursue a nondrug treatment for depression, you can explore these possibilities.
- Behavioral activation: Professionals who use this approach help individuals increase their awareness of and participation in positive activities and interactions.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This is a popular approach that involves assisting individuals in focusing on their negative beliefs and how they impact their current and future behaviors. This knowledge is then used to assist people in changing their belief system and perspective.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy: This is a short-term type of treatment that focuses on interpersonal issues and can be effective for children, adolescents, and adults. It’s been shown to be as beneficial as short-term treatment with antidepressants.
- Psychodynamic therapy: This approach targets the full spectrum of a person’s past unresolved conflicts, emotions, and relationships, including those that have been suppressed. Psychodynamic therapy can help people understand their unresolved issues and unconscious feelings.
- Social skills therapy: Counselors who use this approach help clients learn and utilize skills that help to build and maintain healthy relationships.
- Supportive counseling: This type of therapy is less specific than the others and focuses on proving empathy and helping individuals talk about their feelings and experiences without offering solutions or teaching new skills.
Other nondrug approaches to treatment of depression
Several natural supplements have demonstrated some benefit in the management of depression. These options may be used along with talk therapy in the treatment of depression.
- Vitamin D: A number of studies have linked lower levels of vitamin D with depression, including one that involved more than 12,000 participants. Experts claim they still do not have enough information to recommend taking vitamin D to help prevent depression, but since most people have low levels of the nutrient, taking vitamin D will likely be beneficial.
- Probiotics: The good bacteria probiotics seem to have a beneficial impact on the neurotransmitters in the brain associated with anxiety and to also lower a stress-induced hormone.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Several studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been helpful in reducing depression. One of the more recent studies involved elderly women, who experienced a significant improvement after taking the supplement for two months.
Among the nonpharmaceutical approaches to treatment of depression is talk therapy, which was recently evaluated, as well as natural supplements. Individual who suffer with depression may want to discuss nondrug treatments for depression with their healthcare provider.
Barth J et al. Comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for patients with depression: a network meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine 2013; 10(5): e1001454