Research Investigates The Effectiveness Of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

January 26, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme is expanding the evidence base surrounding the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for the treatment of depression by commissioning three new research projects. Existing research suggests that CBT may be effective in tackling depression, but more evidence is needed.

In a £1.2 million clinical trial researchers, led by Dr Nicola Wiles at the University of Bristol, are investigating CBT for patients with depression who do not respond to treatment with antidepressants. Patients who have been taking antidepressants for at least six weeks will be invited to participate in the trial and receive either CBT and medication, or just medication alone for 12 months, to see which approach is the most effective. Researchers will also evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the treatment and patients’ views and experiences of it.

“CBT has been shown to help patients with previously untreated depression but there is currently little evidence about what alternative treatments doctors should discuss with patients if they have not responded to antidepressants,” says Dr Wiles. “Improving access to psychological therapies is a Government priority, so studies such as this to help inform the development of services in this area.”

For more information about this clinical trial visit

In a further study researchers from the University of Sheffield will review the existing evidence around the clinical and cost-effectiveness of group CBT for postnatal depression. There is much research in the area of postnatal depression, which affects around one in ten mothers, but there is uncertainty about the most effective psychological treatment option.

The research team, lead by Dr Matt Stevenson will review the existing literature to help assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of group CBT compared to a range of other treatment options, such as counselling and drug treatment. A number of group interventions come under the heading of CBT, such as behavioural therapy, cognitive therapy, psycho-education, and so the team will also conduct a second review evaluating patients’ views and experiences of these different forms of group treatments. For more information about this study visit

A third HTA-funded study will evaluate the effectiveness of group CBT in the prevention of depression in high risk adolescents. The £1 million trial, lead by Professor Paul Stallard at the University of Bath, aims to test whether a school-based depression prevention programme, the Resourceful Adolescent Programme (RAP) developed in Australia, is effective in reducing depressive symptoms in high risk children in the UK. RAP involves sessions led by trained and supervised mental health professionals. Approximately 20 per cent of pupils per class could be labelled as high risk.

Researchers will invite children aged 13-16 from 9-12 mixed comprehensive schools in Bath, Bristol, Nottingham and Swindon to complete a screening questionnaire. The scores from these will be used to identify and categorise children as either low risk, high risk of depression or probably depressed. Whole classes of children will then be randomly assigned to receive either RAP, a placebo intervention or treatment as usual, Personal Health and Social Education – PHSE. To view the full project details visit

1. CBT is a combination of psychotherapy and behavioural therapy. It works by changing people’s attitudes and their behaviour by focusing on their thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes and how these relates to the way they behave.

2. In May 2007 the Government launched the £170 millionImproving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) positive practice guide and specification for pathfinder programmes, which has been is designed to help people with depression and anxiety disorders by offering them access to cognitive behavioural therapies. The programme involves a major training programme to provide the necessary number of suitably trained therapists and enable the progressive expansion of NICE-compliant local Psychological Therapies services.

3. The HTA programme is a programme of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and produces high quality research information about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest of the NIHR programmes and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 400 issues published to date. The journal’s 2006 Impact Factor (5.29) ranked it in the top 10% of medical and health-related journals. All issues are available for download free of charge from the website, The HTA programme is coordinated by the National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment (NCCHTA), based at the University of Southampton.

4. The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading edge research focused on the needs of patients.

The National Institute for Health Research



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