Objective: Response to specific depression treatments varies widely among individuals. Understanding and predicting that variation could have great benefits for people living with depression.
Method: The authors describe a conceptual model for identifying and evaluating evidence relevant to personalizing treatment for depression. They review evidence related to three specific treatment decisions: choice between antidepressant medication and psychotherapy, selection of a specific antidepressant medication, and selection of a specific psychotherapy. They then discuss potential explanations for negative findings as well as implications for research and clinical practice.
Results: Many previous studies have examined general predictors of outcome, but few have examined true moderators (predictors of differential response to alternative treatments). The limited evidence indicates that some specific clinical characteristics may inform the choice between antidepressant medication and psychotherapy and the choice of specific antidepressant medication. Research to date does not identify any biologic or genetic predictors of sufficient clinical utility to inform the choice between medication and psychotherapy, the selection of specific medication, or the selection of a specific psychotherapy.
Conclusions: While individuals vary widely in response to specific depression treatments, the variability remains largely unpredictable. Future research should focus on identifying true moderator effects and should consider how response to treatments varies across episodes. At this time, our inability to match patients with treatments implies that systematic follow-up assessment and adjustment of treatment are more important than initial treatment selection.