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Cognitive therapies

Cognitive therapies for depression

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 these therapies, but this Highlight looks at new evidence relating to two types: 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.

Published: May 2016

NHS staff member

Cognitive therapies for depression - evidence at a glance

The findings boiled down, alongside practical questions for healthcare professionals and patients.

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Woman doing computerised CBT programme

Is computerised CBT effective for depression?

For patients with mild to moderate depression, could help be a few mouse clicks away?

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GP consulting patient

When medication hasn't worked

What treatment options work when anti-depressants alone aren't effective?

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Therapist talking to woman with depression

Avoiding relapse without medication

Could mindfulness-based CBT offer an alternative to continuing anti-depressants?

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Therapist talking to patient and taking notes

About the research

Find out more about the studies in this area and how their findings fit with current guidance. 

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1 in 5

people affected by depression at some point during their lifetime.


the cost to health services from depression per year in the UK.


recurrence rate for people who have experienced several periods of depression.

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