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Adding short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (STPP) to antidepressants increases treatment efficacy, but it is unclear which patients benefit specifically. This study examined efficacy moderators of combined treatment (STPP + antidepressants) v. antidepressants for adults with depression.
For this systematic review and meta-analysis (PROSPERO registration number: CRD42017056029), we searched PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase.com, and the Cochrane Library from inception to 1 January 2022. We included randomized clinical trials comparing combined treatment (antidepressants + individual outpatient STPP) v. antidepressants in the acute-phase treatment of depression in adults. Individual participant data were requested and analyzed combinedly using mixed-effects models (adding Cochrane risk of bias items as covariates) and an exploratory machine learning technique. The primary outcome was post-treatment depression symptom level.
Data were obtained for all seven trials identified (100%, n = 482, combined: n = 238, antidepressants: n = 244). Adding STPP to antidepressants was more efficacious for patients with high rather than low baseline depression levels [B = −0.49, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.61 to −0.37, p < 0.0001] and for patients with a depressive episode duration of >2 years rather than <1 year (B = −0.68, 95% CI −1.31 to −0.05, p = 0.03) and than 1–2 years (B = −0.86, 95% CI −1.66 to −0.06, p = 0.04). Heterogeneity was low. Effects were replicated in analyses controlling for risk of bias.
To our knowledge, this is the first study that examines moderators across trials assessing the addition of STPP to antidepressants. These findings need validation but suggest that depression severity and episode duration are factors to consider when adding STPP to antidepressants and might contribute to personalizing treatment selection for depression.
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