Efficacy and acceptability of group cognitive behavioral therapy for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2014 Aug:164:155-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.04.023. Epub 2014 Apr 19.


Background: Despite treatment guidelines for depression placing group cognitive behavioral therapy (group CBT) between low- and high-intensity evidence-based psychological interventions, the validity of the placement remains unknown. We aimed to systematically review evidence for the efficacy and acceptability of group CBT in patients with depression compared to four intensity levels of psychosocial interventions.

Methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Web of Science and hand-searched the references in identified publications. We selected randomized controlled trials comparing group CBT with four levels of interventions for adult patients with depression. Two authors independently assessed risk of bias.

Results: From 7953 records, we identified 35 studies that compared group CBT to non-active (k=30), low-intensity (k=2), middle-intensity (k=8), and high-intensity (k=1) interventions. Group CBT had a superior efficacy (standardized mean difference [SMD]=-0.68) and a similar acceptability compared to non-active controls. Pooled results showed a small but non-significant excess of group CBT relative to middle-intensity interventions (SMD=-0.21).

Limitations: Over 60% of studies did not report enough information to judge selection and selective reporting bias.

Conclusions: These results suggest the need for high-quality trials of group CBT compared to low- and high-intensity interventions.

Keywords: Cognitive therapy; Group therapy; Meta-analysis; Randomized controlled trial; Stepped care.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy, Group*
  • Treatment Outcome