A British study published in the psychiatric journal The Lancet suggests that group therapy benefits patients as much as medication when it comes to treating depression. The results indicated that replacing medications with this form of therapy might work as effectively as continued treatment with the use of medication.
This study, led by University of Oxford researcher Willem Kuyken, was comprised of 424 participants aged 18 years and older. Each participant had a history of three or more episodes of severe depression and was currently taking medication for their condition. Half of the research group continued taking medication for two years while the rest switched to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Those assigned to therapy would receive help from doctors and therapists to gradually wean the patients off of medication.
Those participants assigned to use mindfulness-based treatment underwent eight, weekly group sessions, which were all over two hours plus at-home practices. They were also given the option of follow-up sessions every three months. This course utilized group discussion, exercises for cognitive behavior and mindfulness training. The other group of participants stayed on their medications for two years. Both groups exhibited similar relapse rates. The mindfulness group showed a relapse rate of 44 percent and the medication group with 47 percent. Researchers in the study were not able to find any differences between the two groups in regards to the severity of their depression at the beginning of the study.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a combination of mediation techniques and group counseling. Dr. William Marchand, a psychiatrist at the University of Utah, has said that the findings from this study support evidence that group therapy can effectively keep symptoms of depression in check. In regards to the results of the study, Marchand stated, “Antidepressants are the gold standard for the prevention of relapse of depression…Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an important intervention for the prevention of depressive relapse and equal to the gold standard.”
Stephen Hofmann, director of the Social Anxiety Program at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, has stated that according to the study, “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be a viable alternative to antidepressant medication as a long-term treatment strategy.” The only downside to this study was that “we can’t be certain about these results because there is no control group.”
The results of the study also indicated that therapy may work better than medication for those patients who have some of the more troubled histories and who were at highest risk of relapse. The paper stated: “Perhaps MBCT confers resilience in the group at higher risk because patients address some of the underlying mechanisms of relapse or recurrence.”
Medication and therapy are both effective means to treat depression. Both can be most effective when used together as part of an integrative mental health treatment program. This study suggests that both can yield similar benefits and can serve their optimal purpose when used together. Proper treatment is essential for a full recovery from mental health issues.
Sovereign Health Group is among the premier and most well-renowned mental health treatment providers in the country. We offer a wide range of inpatient and outpatient treatment options for patients struggling with mental illnesses, drug addiction and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, please do not hesitate to call. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and one of our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer