After depression has been treated and has gone into remission, what’s the best way to keep it from recurring? Many people remain on medication, but a study published in 2018 in The Lancet Psychiatry suggests that preventive cognitive therapy (PCT) works just as well—and that combining medication and PCT works even better.
Many people with major depression experience a recurrence. PCT is a form of cognitive therapy designed to prevent depression from recurring by modifying negative thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs; enhancing the memory and retrieval of positive experiences; and creating a personal prevention plan.
For the study, researchers randomly assigned 289 people who were in remission from two or more episodes of depression to one of three groups: The first received PCT and antidepressants, the second received antidepressants alone, and the third received PCT while tapering off antidepressants. For the trial, individuals who received PCT had eight weekly sessions.
After two years, the researchers found that taking antidepressants alone was no better at preventing a recurrence than receiving PCT while tapering off antidepressants. People in the PCT plus antidepressant group fared the best—the recurrence rate was 43 percent in this group versus 60 percent in the antidepressant-alone group.
The authors concluded that PCT should be offered to recurrently depressed individuals who take antidepressants and to individuals who wish to stop antidepressants after recovery.
A version of this article first appeared in the UC Berkeley 2019 Depression and Anxiety White Paper.