By JOANNA FISHMAN
In this age of advanced modern medicine, it is a depressing fact that not all people suffering with a depressive illness respond to antidepressants.
The mental health charity Mind UK recently highlighted their concern that there is a serious need for a range of therapies to be made available to depression sufferers.
According to the best psychological working practices, medication is now considered to be only one option for effectively treating the illness.
Talk therapies — otherwise known as psychotherapy — such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven effective at alleviating melancholic symptoms in hundreds of research studies conducted around the world. In Australia, the Australian Psychological Society has identified a serious need for psychotherapeutic interventions in the lives of people with depression.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy. Participants work with a specially trained psychologist to make positive steps in changing their thoughts and feelings. Committing to CBT means accepting that your actions affect your emotions and reasoning. Therapists help you to learn skills and strategies for changing negative thinking. This helps many people to learn to cope with depressive illness.
A recent study in the UK, carried out over a period of 12 months, looked at the benefits of CBT for managing depression. Participants were allocated a one-hour CBT session each week for the period of the trial.
After six months, 46 percent of the group who had been previously resistant to medication reported a reduction in depressive symptoms. The study concluded that CBT can improve quality of life by reducing depression’s severity.
A 2012 study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry involved a review of Australian National Health data. Researchers became interested in the period between 2001 and 2006, when better access to psychological treatment was made available in Australia.
The study showed from 2001 to 2008, following health care reform, there was a drop in the use of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. CBT is currently recognized in Australia as being a viable and effective way of treating mental illnesses like depression.
It is important to note that CBT is not intended to be a substitute for medication. In many cases it will serve to complement any medicine from the family doctor or psychiatrist. However, in those for whom medication has failed, CBT offers an alternative while new medicines are being developed. Of course, not everything — whether medication or talk therapy — will work for everyone.
In Australia, there is still a shortage of psychiatrists. The right of psychologists to prescribe medication is now a subject for debate. If this becomes reality, the therapist will then be able to evaluate each patient’s needs, and only prescribe drugs when necessary.
In the meantime, although it may not be the best option, family physicians are able to prescribe psychiatric medications if they believe it warranted.