A number of recent studies highlight the uncertainty involved with these treatment decisions. Researchers have dedicated considerable effort to studying the relative effectiveness between psychotherapies and antidepressants, frequently without finding much difference. For instance, a study published in 2012 reviewed data from more than 100 prior trials and included more than 10,000 patients; although psychotherapies and antidepressants each worked better than placebo in blinded trials at reducing depressive symptoms, neither of these treatments was more effective than the other. Furthermore, psychotherapies and antidepressants did no better overall than alternative therapies such as exercise.
In 2014, research presented at the European Congress of Psychiatry suggested that CBT was just as good as, if not better than, antidepressants for the acute treatment of depression. A 2015 systematic review of randomized trials similarly found that antidepressants were no better than CBT across multiple measures for managing depression. And this year, a meta-analysis looking at dozens of studies found psychotherapies and medications were fairly alike at improving quality of life and functioning in people with depression.
If psychotherapy and medication are both used to treat depression, could using them together work even better?