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New ‘Talk Therapy’ To Provide Cheaper, More Effective Depression Treatment

Jul 25, 2016 03:48 AM EDT
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A simpler and cheaper type of "talk therapy" could treat patients suffering from depression.

While cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the current "gold standard" when it comes to treating depression, many people suffering from depression could not get themselves treated because this talk therapy can be expensive and that there are few qualified therapists who could facilitate the treatment, Live Science reports.

But a new study has recently introduced a simpler and more inexpensive type of talk therapy known as behavioral activation, which is said to be as effective as CBT in treating depression.

"Our findings challenge the dominance of CBT as the leading evidence-based psychological therapy for depression," David Richards, professor of Mental Health Services Research at the University of Exeter, UK and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

"Behavioral activation should be a front-line treatment for depression in the UK and has enormous potential to improve reach and access to psychological therapy worldwide."

According to Richards, behavioral activation is an "outside-in" treatment, as it helps people with depression change the way they act.

The treatment helps people make the link between their mood and behavior. By helping people engage in activities that provide positive experiences, depression can be reduced. The treatment also helps people deal with difficult situations and find alternatives to unhelpful habitual behaviors, Richards said.

CBT, in contrast, is an "inside-out" treatment, where treatment is focused on the way people think. According to Richards, therapists who do CBT help people identify and challenge thoughts and the beliefs that give rise to them.

The study, which was published in The Lancet, involved 440 adults suffering from depression who were randomly assigned to go through either CBT or behavioral activation for 16 weeks. CBT treatments were facilitated by experienced psychological therapists while behavioral activation treatments were delivered by mental health workers who did not have any formal training in psychological therapy.

A year after the start of the treatment, the two groups had similar improvements: two-thirds of the participants in both groups reported 50 percent decrease in depression symptoms.

However, the research found that behavioral activation was 20 percent cheaper to deliver than CBT. Behavioral activation costs $1,277 (£974.81) on average per patient, while CBT costs $1,618 (£1235.23) per patient.

According to Richards, because behavioral activation treatment is less complex, it is easier to train people to administer the therapy, which means it is generally less expensive. CBT, on the other hand, is "intellectually challenging and difficult to train people to do well," Richards told Live Science.

Richards suggest health systems that have shortage of psychologists to train health workers in behavioral activation to start delivering treatments to patients with depression.

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