Cognitive Behavioral Group Psychotherapy Shows Promise for Treating Elders with Depression

April 10, 2017
Perry Gwen Meyers,

Depression is common in geriatric patients and is associated with problems such as sleep disorders, loss of appetite, and social withdrawal. When unresolved, it can lead to hospitalizations and a higher mortality rate. A new study in the April issue of JAMDA, “AIDE – Acute Illness and Depression in Elderly Patients. Cognitive Behavioral Group Psychotherapy in Geriatric Patients with Comorbid Depression: A Randomized, Controlled Trial,” shows that cognitive behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) in a group setting can help treat depression in the older population.

In the study, 155 patients aged 82 to 88 and suffering from depression were randomized into two groups: one that received immediate involvement in group CBT (15 weekly group sessions) on hospital discharge, and one that was put on a watch list for psychotherapy. Both groups received “usual treatment” from their general practitioner (including medications). After 4 months, the group that participated in the group therapy had significantly improved depression scores, while the other group’s scores worsened. The group that participated in the psychotherapy also had improved functional and cognitive status, physical performance, and physical and social activities.

Based on the results, this form of psychotherapy appears to be an effective treatment in geriatric patients with physical illness and comorbid depression. Besides the psychological benefit, it can also help reverse functional and cognitive decline. The authors concluded, “It may prove to be an important tool in the treatment of depression in old age and multimorbidity.”

The study was conducted by researchers in Mannheim and Hamburg, Germany.

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