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Talking may be depression's best medicine

Psychotherapy works as well or better than drugs to treat even severe depression, suggests a research report out Monday in a journal published by the American Psychological Association.

 "We have come to believe if somebody is depressed, he needs drugs,' says University of Nevada psychologist David O. Antonuccio, co-author of the analysis in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. "Our review of the literature suggests there are safe, effective alternatives - with some advantages in terms of preventing a relapse - that don't involve drugs.'


Those alternatives include two particular forms of psychotherapy: cognitive therapy, which changes the way patients think about events in their lives; and interpersonal therapy, which changes how patients interact with others. But psychiatrist David Burns, an authority on such therapies, cautions that sometimes drugs are necessary. "They are a catalyst that really gets some people moving and enables them to begin to think positively.'

Psychologists cannot prescribe drugs; psychiatrists, who are medical doctors, can. But Antonuccio's team reviewed studies reported in both psychiatry and psychology journals. He says drugs are popular because drug companies have marketed antidepressants effectively and some insurance companies would rather pay for drugs than psychotherapy.

There are virtually no studies yet that compare psychotherapy to a newer family of drugs that includes Prozac, Antonuccio says. But a recent research analysis, he says, shows "there is no evidence these new drugs are more effective than older antidepressants.'

 By Karen S. Peterson, USA TODAY


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