Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether problem-solving therapy is an effective treatment in older patients with depression and executive dysfunction, a population likely to be resistant to antidepressant drugs.
Method: Participants were adults age 60 and older with major depression and executive dysfunction. Problem-solving therapy was modified to be accessible to this population. Participants were randomly assigned to 12 weekly sessions of problem-solving therapy or supportive therapy and assessed at weeks 3, 6, 9, and 12.
Results: Of the 653 individuals referred for this study, 221 met selection criteria and were enrolled in the study. Reduction of depressive symptom severity was comparable for the two treatment groups during the first 6 weeks of treatment, but at weeks 9 and 12 the problem-solving therapy group had a greater reduction in symptom severity, a greater response rate, and a greater remission rate than the supportive therapy group (response rates at week 9: 47.1% and 29.3%; at week 12:56.7% and 34.0%; remission rates at week 9: 37.9% and 21.7%; at week 12: 45.6% and 27.8%). Problem-solving therapy yielded one additional response or remission over supportive therapy for every 4.4-5.6 patients by the end of the trial.
Conclusions: These results suggest that problem-solving therapy is effective in reducing depressive symptoms and leading to treatment response and remission in a considerable number of older patients with major depression and executive dysfunction. The clinical value of this finding is that problem-solving therapy may be a treatment alternative in an older patient population likely to be resistant to pharmacotherapy.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00052091.