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J Affect Disord. 2011 Jun;131(1-3):24-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.08.014. Epub 2010 Oct 14.

Optimal duration of combined psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for patients with moderate and severe depression: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, Section for Social Pharmacy, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Denmark.



To investigate the most effective duration of combined psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for achieving remission and preventing relapse in depressive patients as compared to pharmacotherapy alone.


A systematic review of English articles using PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, and PsychINFO was performed in September 2009. Clinical studies comparing pharmacotherapy alone with pharmacotherapy in combination with a psychological intervention for depression treatment that reported response, remission or relapse as outcomes were included in the analysis. For each of the studies, clinical binary outcomes such as response, remission or relapse were extracted.


All pooled analyses were based on random-effects models. Twenty-one article describing the influence of additional psychotherapy on remission and 15 articles reporting the influence on relapse in depression were included in the analysis. Patients receiving combined treatment experienced remission more often than those receiving pharmacotherapy alone, with the highest odds ratio OR, 2.36; 95% CI, 1.58-3.55 observed at 4months after commencing the treatment. Patients receiving pharmacotherapy alone also demonstrated a higher risk for relapse compared to those receiving combined treatment.


We restricted our search to only English language publications. Studies investigating relapse or recurrence rates are often of small size.


Pharmacotherapy enhanced with psychotherapy is associated with a higher probability of remission and a lower risk of relapse, as compared to antidepressants alone for depression treatment. Receiving psychotherapy in both the acute and continuation phases is the most effective option. Further research is needed to investigate the influence of additional psychotherapy on different patients.

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