My colleague Steve Hollon and I, along with our colleagues at Penn and Vanderbilt, recently completed a NIMH-funded, two-site, randomized controlled trial that compared the short- and long-term effects of cognitive therapy, pharmacotherapy, and placebo in the treatment of severely depressed outpatients. In this study, the short-term effects of brief (16-week) cognitive therapy and pharmacotherapy on depressive symptomatology were very similar, but the longer-term (relapse-prevention) effects of cognitive therapy were significantly greater than short-term pharmacotherapy treatment. The papers describing these findings have been published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. (DeRubeis et al, 2005; Hollon et al., 2005)
We are currently conducting an NIMH-funded study to examine the longer-term effects of cognitive therapy. Our interest is in whether cognitive therapy can prevent recurrences (the onsets of new episodes). In this study, being conducted at Penn, Vanderbilt, and Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago (Jan Fawcett, P.I.) 450 patients are being randomly assigned to medications alone, or medications plus cognitive therapy. Once a patient has remitted and recovered (i.e., minimal symptoms for 6 months), cognitive therapy is ended for those who had been assigned to the combined condition. All recovered patients are then assigned randomly to either: (a) a continuation condition (continuation of the medicines that were used in the treatment phase); or (b) discontinuation. All patients are being followed for three years, or until a recurrence is observed.