New study says behavioral activation is equally as effective at treating depression as the 'gold-standard' cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
A simple and inexpensive therapy has shown promise for treating depression and it could potentially replace cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a gold standard treatment, in the future.
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CBT is the most widely recommended intervention for treating depression and other mental disorders but most of the patients who need therapy for depression are unable to receive this treatment as they cannot either afford it or had to endure long waits to make an appointment. Behavioral Activation (BA), on the other hand, is psychotherapy or talking therapy that requires minimal training and can be delivered by junior staff in place of a specialist, making it more accessible than CBT. The therapy encourages patients to concentrate on meaningful activities so they can refocus on their goals and right direction.
“Our findings challenge the dominance of CBT as the leading evidence-based psychological therapy for depression", said lead author David Richards from Mental Health Services Research at the University of Exeter, UK. “Behavioural 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.”
Depression is a common mental disorder. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 350 million people suffer from depression and less than half of those receive any treatment. The figures drop even further in those countries who lack health resources or healthcare workers. The global economic burden of depression is expected to be $5.36 trillion between 2011 and 2030.
In a large-scale clinical trial, researchers assessed the cost and effectiveness of Behavioral Activation and compared them with the first line treatment cognitive behavioral therapy. A total of 440 adults were recruited for the trial and were assigned to receive either a maximum of 20 sessions of behavioral activation therapy by junior health staff or CBT delivered by experienced psychological therapists. Upon the completion of the trial, researchers found that behavioral activation was equal to cognitive behavioral therapy in term of effectiveness as one third of the participants in both groups reported almost similar yet considerable reduction in depressive symptoms. BA was around 20 percent low cost than CBT too.
“Effectively treating depression at low cost is a global priority. Our finding is the most robust evidence yet that Behavioural Activation is just as effective as CBT, meaning an effective workforce could be trained much more easily and cheaply without any compromise on the high level of quality,” said Richards.
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“This is an exciting prospect for reducing waiting times and improving access to high-quality depression therapy worldwide, and offers hope for countries who are currently struggling with the impact of depression on the health of their peoples and economies.”