For decades, the public and most mental health professionals have felt that antidepressant medications are a magic bullet for depression. Beginning in the late 1950s, antidepressants ushered in an era of safe, reliable and reasonably affordable treatment that often produced better results than the psychotherapies of the day. As the compounds rose in popularity, many physicians came to view psychotherapy alone as ineffective and as little more than a minor adjunct when combined with medication.
This is no longer the case, if it was ever true. Contrary to prevailing wisdom, recent research suggests that several focused forms of psychotherapy may be as effective as medication, even when treating more severe depressions. Moreover, the newer psychotherapies may provide advantages beyond what antidepressants alone can achieve. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical therapy remains the current standard of treatment, and effective new options are being added all the time.
This article was originally published with the title Treating Depression: Pills or Talk.