Combining pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy or monotherapy for major depression? A meta-analysis on the long-term effects

E. Karyotaki*, Y. Smit, K. Holdt Henningsen, M. J. H. Huibers, J. Robays, D. de Beurs, P. Cuijpers

*Corresponding author for this work

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The present meta-analysis aimed to examine to what extent combined pharmacotherapy with psychotherapy results in a different response to treatment compared to psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy alone in adults with major depression at six months or longer postrandomization.A systematic literature search resulted in 23 randomized controlled trials with 2184 participants. Combined treatment was compared to either psychotherapy or anti-depressant medication alone in both the acute phase and the maintenance phase. Odds ratios of a positive outcome were calculated for all comparisons.In acute phase treatment, combined psychotherapy with antidepressants outperformed antidepressants alone at six months or longer postrandomization in patients with major depressive disorder (OR=2.93, 95%CI 2.15-3.99, p0.05). However, combined therapy resulted in equal response to treatment compared to psychotherapy alone at six months or longer postrandomization. As for the maintenance treatment, combined maintenance psychotherapy with antidepressants resulted in better-sustained treatment response compared to antidepressants at six months or longer postrandomization (OR=1.61, 95%CI 1.14-2.27, p0.05).Combined therapy results in a superior enduring effect compared to antidepressants alone in patients with major depression. Psychotherapy is an adequate alternative for combined treatment in the acute phase as it is as effective as combined treatment in the long-term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-152
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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