Talking therapies

Cognitive therapies for depression Highlight 

Depression is common, affecting up to one person in five at some point during their lifetime. More than half of those affected will experience at least two episodes. It is often a long term condition, and as such the cost to health services is high – around £3 billion a year in the UK, with a large additional cost to the economy as a result of lost working time. Depression is also one of the most common reasons for visiting a GP.

While depression is often treated with anti-depressant medication, there is good evidence that cognitive therapies are also effective. These are talking therapies which aim to help people with depression to minimise the impact of negative thoughts and develop strategies for coping with difficult feelings or situations.

There are a range of types of these therapies, but this Highlight looks at new evidence relating to two: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). The NHS Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies programme has improved access to these therapies, although availability is still variable and there are waiting lists in some areas.

In this Highlight you can find out about important new NIHR research which adds to our knowledge about when, and for whom, cognitive therapies might work. You will also hear from people living with depression, and people working with them, about what this new evidence means to them.

Evidence at a glance and key questions

Is computerised CBT effective for mild to moderate depression?

What treatments help for depression that hasn’t responded to medication?

Which treatments might help avoid depression relapse?

Featured Blogs

  • Finn's Story

    One patient's journey through anti-depressants, CBT and mindfulness based cognitive therapy.

  • Patient voices

    Patient voices on depression

    Six patients from a mindfulness based cognitive therapy group reveal their experiences of depression and treatment.

  • Preventing depression with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: From evidence to practice

    Jo Rycroft-Malone and Willem Kuyken

    What are the facilitators and barriers to implementing MBCT in the NHS?

  • Research priority questions for depression

    Identifying questions that need answers in depression

    Cynthia Joyce, CEO of MQ

    What should be the priorities for future research into depression?

  • About the research

    Find out about the evidence featured in the Highlight, what the implications are for current guidance, and what other research is taking place in this area.

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