Use of therapy in depression treatment declines

    Depression is the leading cause of mental illness in the United States. But as more people are diagnosed with depression, a study published in Archives of General Psychiatry says fewer people are using therapy as part of their treatment.

    Daniel Carlat, who teaches psychiatry at Tufts Medical School, is a critic of the medication-only approach. He believes some doctors have settled for treating symptoms rather than causes.

    “Therapy gives patients the mental and intellectual emotional tools that they need in order to prevent depression from coming back on,” he said. “ Whereas, if you just take a medication and you get better, you stop it after six months. You’re very likely to relapse and have another episode of depression or an anxiety problem.”

    Carlat said pinpointing the reason behind the trend is tough.

    It’s a combination of society wanting a quick fix and doctors who are under pressure from health insurance companies to squeeze more patient visits into a day.

    Carlat believes mental help should be a one-stop shop, but psychiatrists often refer patients to therapists for cognitive treatment.

    “Even though it’s great we have wonderful therapists around, we have wonderful psychiatrists around, they do their piece of the puzzle, but then the patient sort of gets fragmented into two different people,” he said. “That fragmented care is what I see as being one of the real crises in the mental health-care system in the United States today.”

    Carlat said a break in care for someone who is depressed could be the difference of life or death.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.