Psychotherapy should be first option to treat depression in young people, study says

Adolescents and young adults with mental illness may not benefit significantly from antidepressants, a new study suggests.

Psychotherapy should be the first option for young people with depression, a new study suggests. Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay

Instead, psychotherapy should be the first treatment option for young people with depression, according to research published Wednesday in The Lancet Psychiatry.

“The results suggest that we should really be focusing on providing good quality psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to young people and keeping medication as the second line of treatment,” said Christopher Davey, a researcher at Orygen, the National Center of Excellence in Youth Mental Health in Australia and study author, in a news release.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, the most common type for young people with depression, usually involves either a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.


In a randomized, double-blind trial, researchers recruited 153 people between ages 15 and 25 who were receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression. For 12 weeks, the participants received an antidepressant known as fluoxetine or a placebo.

Within the group that received cognitive behavioral therapy and placebo, five people attempted suicide. That’s compared to one person within the group that took fluoxetine along with therapy. There was no significant difference in these results, the researchers say.

This matches up with a 2015 study that also showed no difference in the effects of the two treatment approaches.


But the researchers don’t think antidepressants should be abandoned altogether.

“Our study found some evidence to suggest that if antidepressants have a role, they have more of a role in people at the older end of our age range,” Davey said. “The take-home message from the study is that the first-line treatment for young people with depression should be psychotherapy.”

ByTauren Dyson