Using psychotherapy to treat subclinical depression may be moerately effective in some patients, though a recent meta-analysis found that a definitive answer on the efficacy of such therapy is still lacking in this population.
Pim Cuijpers of VU University, Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 18 studies comparing a psychological treatment of subclinical depression with a control group. This kind of depression is characterized by depressive symptoms, but without a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
Overall, the researchers found that target groups, therapies and the way the studies were setup was not optimal to provide an accurate assessment of psychotherapy for subclinical depression.
Psychotherapies did have a small to moderate effect on depressive symptoms against care as usual at the post-test assessment (g = 0.35, 95% CI 0.23-0.47; NNT = 5, 95% CI 4-8) and significantly reduced the incidence of major depressive episodes at 6 months (RR = 0.61) and possibly at 12 months (RR = 0.74), the researchers reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
However, researchers cautioned that the benefits of psychotherapy were much smaller in subclinical depression that it is for major depressive disorder. They added that “more high-quality research” would be useful to get a clearer picture of the efficacy of psychotherapy in subclinical depression.
There is controversy about whether psychotherapies are effective in the treatment of subclinical depression, defined by clinically relevant depressive symptoms in the absence of a major depressive disorder.
The aim of the study is to examine whether psychotherapies are effective in reducing depressive symptoms, reduce the risk of developing major depressive disorder and have comparable effects to psychological treatment of major depression.
The study was conducted through a meta-analysis of 18 studies comparing a psychological treatment of subclinical depression with a control group.