Combining psychotherapy and antidepressants in the treatment of depression

J Affect Disord. 2001 May;64(2-3):217-29. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(00)00259-7.


Objective: To compare the efficacy of antidepressants with that of antidepressants plus psychotherapy ("combined therapy") in the treatment of depression.

Methods: 6 month randomised clinical trial of antidepressants (N=84) and combined therapy (N=83) in ambulatory patients with Major Depression and a 17-item HDRS baseline score of at least 14 points. The antidepressant protocol provides for three successive steps in case of intolerance or inefficacy: fluoxetine, amitriptyline and moclobemide. The combined therapy condition consists, in addition to pharmacotherapy, of 16 sessions of Short Psychodynamic Supportive Psychotherapy. Efficacy is assessed using the 17-item HDRS, the CGI of Severity and of Improvement, the depression subscale of the SCL-90, and the Quality of Life Depression Scale. The data analysis is conducted on three samples: the intention-to-treat sample, the per protocol sample and the observed cases sample.

Results: After randomisation, 32% of the patients refused the proposed pharmacotherapy while 13% refused the proposed combined therapy. In 24 weeks, 40% of the patients who started with the pharmacotherapy stopped medication; 22% of those receiving the combined therapy did so. The difference in success rates is statistically significant, favouring combined therapy, in 23%, 31% and 62% of the patients after 8, 16 and 24 weeks of treatment, respectively. At week 24, the mean success rate is 40.7% in the pharmacotherapy group and 59.2% in the combined therapy group.

Conclusion: Patients found combined treatment significantly more acceptable, they were significantly less likely to drop out of combined therapy and, ultimately, significantly more likely to recover. Combined therapy is preferable to pharmacotherapy in the treatment of ambulatory patients with major depression.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Dropouts / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Remission Induction
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents