More People with Depression, Less Psychotherapy

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A recent research study disclosed that more people are being diagnosed with depression than in 1998, but fewer are receiving psychotherapy. The study focused on the increasing use of medication to treat depression. Treatment with anti-depressants rose from 73.8% in 1998 to 75.3% in 2007. Individuals from 50-64 and the uninsured were significant factors in the increase.  The percentage of individuals receiving treatment fell from 53.6% to 43.1% in the same ten year period. Interesting is the consistent demonstration by academic researchers demonstrating the efficacy of specific types of psychotherapy for depression. Even those who had psychotherapy had a decline in the number of visits and expenses for those appointments. Within the declining trend there are significant factors of declining use associated with individuals between 35-49, Hispanics, those with less than 12 years of education, Medicaid beneficiaries and unemployed adults.

Is there a preference for drug treatment solely for depression, problems with access to psychotherapists, financial or insurance coverage problems or other obstacles that are causing the reduction in the use of psychotherapy? The research has identified that a course of psychotherapy with medication produces the best results. So, what is really causing the shift from psychotherapy to what might be a less effective treatment for depression?

As a society have we embraced “take a pill” as the answer for depression? Or, are there other barriers or reductions in available mental health services which are keeping people from accessing psychotherapy.  If we know that effective treatment is based on pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, why are we settling for a less-than –effective approach? Has anyone given thought to the possibility that the increase in the rate of depression may be related to the shift away from psychotherapy?

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