Six-year outcome of cognitive behavior therapy for prevention of recurrent depression

Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Oct;161(10):1872-6. doi: 10.1176/ajp.161.10.1872.


Objective: A paucity of studies use nonpharmacological strategies for preventing recurrence in depression. Cognitive behavior treatment of residual symptoms was found to yield a significantly lower relapse rate than clinical management in recurrent depression at a 2-year follow-up. The objective of this investigation was to provide a 6-year follow-up of cognitive behavior treatment versus clinical management.

Method: Forty patients with recurrent major depression who had been successfully treated with antidepressant drugs were randomly assigned to either cognitive behavior treatment of residual symptoms (supplemented by lifestyle modification and well-being therapy) or clinical management. In both groups, antidepressant drugs were tapered and discontinued. A 6-year follow-up was undertaken. During this period, no antidepressant drugs were used unless a relapse ensued.

Results: Cognitive behavior treatment resulted in a significantly lower relapse rate (40%) at a 6-year follow-up than did clinical management (90%). When multiple recurrences were considered, the group that received cognitive behavior treatment had a significantly lower number of relapses in comparison with the clinical management group.

Conclusions: The results suggest that the sequential use of cognitive behavior treatment after pharmacotherapy may improve the long-term outcome in recurrent depression. A significant proportion of patients with recurrent depression might be able to withdraw from medication successfully and to stay well for at least 6 years with a focused course of psychotherapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents