A simple and inexpensive “behavioural activation” therapy that can be delivered by non-specialist staff with minimal training at a far less cost is as effective at treating depression in adults as the gold-standard cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a study suggests.
Depression is a common mental health disorder affecting around 350 million people worldwide.
The findings showed that behavioural activation treatment is highly cost-effective and affordable compared with CBT.
It could offer cost savings of over 20 per cent on health services used for treating depression, mainly due to the low cost of non-specialist mental health providers.
“Our findings indicate that health services worldwide, both rich and poor, could reduce the need for costly professional training and infrastructure, reduce waiting times, and increase the availability of psychological therapies,” said lead author David Richards, Professor at the University of Exeter in Britain.
“Behavioural activation should be a front-line treatment for depression as it has enormous potential to improve reach and access to psychological therapy globally,” Richards added.
One year after the start of treatment, behavioural activation was found to be non-inferior (not worse than) CBT, with around two-thirds of participants reporting at least a 50 per cent reduction in depressive symptoms.
“Behavioural activation is an ‘outside in’ treatment that focuses on helping people with depression to change the way they act,” Richards said adding, “in contrast, CBT is an ‘inside out’ treatment where therapists focus on the way a person thinks.”
For the study, published in The Lancet, the team recruited 440 adults with depression from primary care and psychological therapy services in three areas of England.