Publication of landmark psychoanalytic psychotherapy for depression study

A landmark research study has been published in the World Psychiatry Journal by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Mental Health Trust.

The Tavistock Adult Depression Study (TADS) provides significant evidence for the efficacy of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy for NHS patients suffering from chronic depression.

Started over ten years ago, the study is the first randomised controlled trial in the NHS to establish if this type of psychotherapy can help people not helped by treatments currently provided: antidepressants, short-term courses of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Crucially, participants were followed for two years after treatment, in order to look at long-term therapeutic effects.  The study found that nearly half of the patients were still undergoing major improvements two years after therapy ended.

Chronic depression affects up to one in five people who experience an episode of depression, with sufferers being prone to suicide.

The British Psychoanalytic Council welcomes the publication of the TADS as an important step in the growing evidence base for psychoanalytic psychotherapy.  It also believes that the NICE guideline development group currently revising the NICE Guideline for the treatment of Depression in Adults should take the findings of the study into account.

Further details of the study

The study found that:

  • 44% of the patients who were given 18 months of weekly psychoanalytic psychotherapy no longer had major depressive disorder when followed up two years after therapy had ended; for those receiving treatments currently provided by the NHS, the figure was 10%
  • While just 14% of those receiving the psychoanalytic psychotherapy had recovered completely, full recovery occurred in only 4% of those receiving the treatments currently provided by the NHS
  • In every 6-month period of the trial’s exceptional 3 ½ years of observation of participants, the chances of going into partial remission for those receiving psychoanalytic psychotherapy were 40% higher than for those who were receiving the usual treatments
  • After two years of follow-up, depressive symptoms had partially remitted in 30% of those receiving the psychoanalytic therapy; in the control condition this figure was again only 4%
  • Those receiving the psychoanalytic psychotherapy also saw significantly more benefits to their quality of life, general wellbeing and social and personal functioning
  • Some patients did not benefit and research is ongoing to identify the reasons underlying the differences in responsiveness.

The paper has been published in the open access journal World Psychiatry:


Friday, 2 October, 2015 - 09:49