“Evidence-based treatment” is a term used in health care to describe treatments that have performed well in scientific studies and are effective for treating a specific health problem. Treatments that are “evidence-based” for depression have been shown in research studies to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression. Although it may seem odd to have a specific term for effective treatment, the term is common in mental health treatment because there are a wide variety of treatment approaches in existence, but only some of these treatments have been studied scientifically. It is important to note that if a treatment is not evidence-based, it does not necessarily mean that treatment is not effective, but rather that the treatment has not been shown to be effective using traditional research methods. In addition, there can be many factors that impact whether a specific treatment – even if evidence-based overall – works for a given individual. Because of these individual differences in treatment response, many health care providers now use questionnaires to track changes in depressive symptoms and quality of life in individuals over time, in order to determine if a particular treatment approach is working for that individual.
What Are Some of the Evidence-Based Treatments for Depression?
The list of evidence-based treatments for depression is continually evolving because additional treatments are always being studied in research. Treatments with the largest amount of evidence they are effective include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy and Antidepressant medications, especially SSRI’s and SNRI’s. Electroconvulsive Therapy is also widely shown as effective although it is only considered in cases of more severe or treatment resistant depression due to side effects. Behavioral Activation, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy are also evidence-based, although there are fewer studies showing their effectiveness. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is evidence-based for preventing relapse of depression.
What Are Some of the Treatments That Are Not Evidence-Based for Depression?
Often treatments are not listed as evidence-based mainly because they have not been studied scientifically. However, the following treatments have been studied scientifically and shown ineffective. In some cases, these treatments may even be harmful:
• Rebirthing Therapy
• Reparative Therapy
Strategies for Identifying Evidence-Based Treatment for Depression
Asking questions of a potential treatment provider can help a client to consider whether there is an evidence-base for the provider’s treatment approach. Some questions to ask might include:
• What type of treatment(s) do you typically use for depression?
• What is the evidence that this treatment is effective for depression?
• Do you track symptoms or outcomes over time for people you work with?