There’s an old joke in the movie, “Annie Hall,” where the character Alvy Singer is having a meal with Annie’s family. Mom Hall says, “Ann tells us that you’ve been seeing a psychiatrist for fifteen years.” Alvy responds, jokingly, “Yes. I’m making excellent progress. Pretty soon when I lie down on his couch, I won’t have to wear the lobster bib.”
That was one of those classic movie lines. But as it turns out, it’s no joke. Talk therapy just does not work as well as they’d hoped back in the 70s and now in 2015 researchers have uncovered that—for depression at least—it is actually 25 percent less effective than reported.
Biased journal reporting
How can this be when studies in peer-reviewed journals report on the effectiveness of talk therapy for depression? Well, the studies with positive results have been overstated in the journals because the studies with poor results, or no results for talk therapy, have not made it to press.
This, of course, has created a bias in favor of the effectiveness of talk therapy. This is important because those who suffer depression and rely on talk therapy for treatment, are finding it’s not working for them as well as expected, which can cause further depression and even despair.
Researchers have come to know that the effectiveness of antidepressants has been overestimated, also due to publication bias, but this has only been inferred statistically with regard to psychological treatment for depression. So they sought to see if the same were true for talk therapy.
New study uncovers truth
A research team led by Ellen Driessen of VU University in Amsterdam conducted asystematic review and meta-analysis of US National Institutes of Health-funded trials conducted between 1972 and 2008. They “assessed directly the extent of study publication bias in trials examining the efficacy of psychological treatment for depression.”
They uncovered 55 funded grants that began trials but did not publish results and requested the data from the researchers. The results showed that talk therapies, like cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy—while effective—were indeed less effective than previous believed. “Among comparisons to control conditions, adding unpublished studies to published studies reduced the psychotherapy effect size point estimate by 25%.”
So while drug therapy and talk therapy do indeed help patients suffering depression, they are less effective as previously believed and are best used in conjunction with each other and additional methods.
Supplements can help milder depression
Taking natural supplements can also help with depression. My colleague here at Easy Health Options, Dr. Michael Cutler, offered some advice in another article. He says that while supplements have not been well-studied for depression, some have been reported to work to a certain extent for mild cases of depression. These include:
- Hypericum extract (St. John’s wort) at 300mg three times daily.
- Fenugreek can enhance the effects of St John’s Wort.
- L-Tryptophan 1,500 mg to 3,000 mg twice daily between meals increases brain serotonin. Controlled trials indicate this is equivalent to 150-225 mg/day of the drug Imipramine.
- 5-HTP (hydroxyl tryptophane): 100-250 mg twice daily increases serotonin much like L-tryptophan at similar dosing.
- SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) 400 to 800 mg twice daily, starting at low dose.
Other “outside the box” options
I have experienced depression during some emotionally hard times. I looked into and tried many things, and two of the methods I used seemed to help me over the hump and keep me from allowing the depressive moods to become a chronic condition. These include EMDR and BAUD therapy.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. While still relatively unknown as a therapy for emotional issues like depression and PTSD, its effectiveness has been validated in more than two dozen randomized studies. EMDR triggers an innate, natural stress release process in the brain that often produces rapid and long lasting changes even when other types of treatment have failed.
BAUD therapy makes use of a handheld Bio Acoustical Utilization Device (BAUD). It is a powerful therapeutic tool that is FDA-cleared and registered and works through neuroacoustic stimulation. Unlike other devices like those used in biofeedback, the BAUD doesn’t require an external monitor to gauge the user’s progress. Your sensations are used to monitor their neural response, and you tune the frequencies to achieve a desired result. In essence, your brain becomes the monitor. The product developers assume this happens because the sound frequencies and waveforms quickly stimulate a parasympathetic response in very specific brain areas associated with the target problem (emotional trigger). This brings neural function out of an aroused level and produces often dramatic relief of the problem symptoms.
In all cases, no matter what one experiences in terms of health issues, I recommend thinking outside the box and combining therapies for best results. Because they are multi-faceted, psychological issues like depression cannot be cured or best managed by single modalities. Depression has an effect on heart disease, eating habits, sleep quality and duration, lack of exercise, levels of socializing. Increasing exercise, social interaction, supplementation, talk therapy, drug therapy, EMDR, BAUD , acupuncture, meditation, and other modalities should all be investigated and tried. And, as we now know, relying on journal reports to validate efficacy, is not enough. Try what you can and let your personal experience help lead the way forward.