Behavioural therapies versus other psychological therapies for depression

Kiyomi Shinohara, Mina Honyaskiki, Hissei Imai , Vivien M Hunot, Deborah M Caldwell, Philippa Davies, Theresa H M Moore, Toshi A Furukawa, Rachel C Churchill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Behavioural therapies represent one of several categories of psychological therapies that are currently used in the treatment of depression. However, the effectiveness and acceptability of behavioural therapies for depression compared with other psychological therapies remain unclear.

OBJECTIVES: 1. To examine the effects of all BT approaches compared with all other psychological therapy approaches for acute depression.2. To examine the effects of different BT approaches (behavioural therapy, behavioural activation, social skills training and relaxation training) compared with all other psychological therapy approaches for acute depression.3. To examine the effects of all BT approaches compared with different psychological therapy approaches (CBT, third wave CBT, psychodynamic, humanistic and integrative psychological therapies) for acute depression.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Depression Anxiety and Neurosis Group Trials Specialised Register (CCDANCTR, 31/07/2013), which includes relevant randomised controlled trials from The Cochrane Library (all years), EMBASE, (1974-), MEDLINE (1950-) and PsycINFO (1967-). We also searched CINAHL (May 2010) and PSYNDEX (June 2010) and reference lists of the included studies and relevant reviews for additional published and unpublished studies.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials that compared behavioural therapies with other psychological therapies for acute depression in adults.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two or more review authors independently identified studies, assessed trial quality and extracted data. We contacted study authors for additional information.

MAIN RESULTS: Twenty-five trials involving 955 participants compared behavioural therapies with one or more of five other major categories of psychological therapies (cognitive-behavioural, third wave cognitive-behavioural, psychodynamic, humanistic and integrative therapies). Most studies had a small sample size and were assessed as being at unclear or high risk of bias. Compared with all other psychological therapies together, behavioural therapies showed no significant difference in response rate (18 studies, 690 participants, risk ratio (RR) 0.97, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.86 to 1.09) or in acceptability (15 studies, 495 participants, RR of total dropout rate 1.02, 95% CI 0.65 to 1.61). Similarly, in comparison with each of the other classes of psychological therapies, low-quality evidence showed better response to cognitive-behavioural therapies than to behavioural therapies (15 studies, 544 participants, RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.05) and low-quality evidence of better response to behavioural therapies over psychodynamic therapies (2 studies, 110 participants, RR 1.24, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.82).When compared with integrative therapies and humanistic therapies, only one study was included in each comparison, and the analysis showed no significant difference between behavioural therapies and integrative or humanistic therapies.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We found low- to moderate-quality evidence that behavioural therapies and other psychological therapies are equally effective. The current evidence base that evaluates the relative benefits and harms of behavioural therapies is very weak. This limits our confidence in both the size of the effect and its precision for our key outcomes related to response and withdrawal. Studies recruiting larger samples with improved reporting of design and fidelity to treatment would improve the quality of evidence in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)CD008696
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number10
Early online date16 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Depression
  • Depressive Disorder, Major
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


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  • Research Fellowship

    Caldwell, D. M.


    Project: Research

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