Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, Missouri compared cognitive behavior therapy and supportive stress management.

First, the details.

  • 123 patients with major or minor depression within 1 year of surgery were randomly assigned to a 12-week treatment program.
    • Cognitive behavior therapy: designed to help people recognize and change their negative thought patterns and behaviors.
    • Supportive stress management: techniques intended to help a person deal with psychological stress.
  • They were followed for 9 months.
  • Approximately half of the participants were taking antidepressant medications.
  • Remission of depression was defined as a score of less than 7 on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.
  • The researchers didn’t know the treatment given — single-blind.

And, the results.

  • Remission of depression occurred when measured at 3 and 9 months in significantly more patients getting cognitive behavior therapy (71%) vs supportive stress-management (57%).
  • At 6 months there was no difference, however.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Both… are efficacious for treating depression after coronary artery bypass surgery, relative to usual care. Cognitive behavior therapy had greater and more durable [long lasting] effects than supportive stress management on depression and several secondary psychological outcomes.”

For perspective, it’s important to understand, said the author, “that this trial was not designed to assess whether or not these nonpharmacological interventions were superior to antidepressant medication, but rather whether they were effective in reducing depressive symptoms in this patient population relative to usual care, which often involves the use of antidepressants.”

5/5/09 20:15 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.