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Fam Pract. 2011 Oct;28(5):489-504. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmr017. Epub 2011 May 9.

Effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy in primary health care: a review.

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Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, Norway.



Depression and anxiety are highly prevalent disorders causing substantial impairment in daily life. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) delivered face-to-face or as self-help has shown to be an effective treatment for these disorders. Such treatments may be suitable for delivery in primary health care.


The aim of the article was to review research on the effectiveness of CBT for depression and anxiety disorders delivered in primary care by primary care therapists.


A literature search of quantitative studies of the effectiveness of CBT delivered in primary care was conducted on multiple electronic databases. A total of 17 studies were included in the review.


Eight studies of supported Internet- or computer-based CBT, six of which were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), indicate that this treatment is effective for mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Five studies suggest that this treatment may be more effective than usual care for mild to moderate but not for more severe symptoms. Results of four RCTs of brief therapies using written self-help material suggest that while such interventions are effective, no particular approach outperformed any other, including usual care. Five RCTs of CBT delivered face-to-face show that this treatment can be effective when delivered by therapists highly educated in the mental health field. However, many primary care therapists may find such interventions too time consuming.


CBT delivered in primary care, especially including computer- or Internet-based self-help programs, is potentially more effective than usual care and could be delivered effectively by primary care therapists.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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