Group treatment for anxiety and depression as effective as solo therapy

Group treatment for anxiety and depression as effective as solo therapy
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The University of Manchester has completed the first trial of a new group approach to treatment for anxiety and depression. 

Results have shown that group therapy as a treatment for anxiety and depression, is equally as effective as the one-on-one sessions thousands of people receive on the NHS every day. 

The trial assessed the ‘Take Control Course’ for up to 20 people, which was devised by the University of Manchester, comparing it to standard talking therapy. Both courses took place over six weekly sessions. 

The study has been published in the journal Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

What does the group therapy course involve?

The group course follows a precise programme that aims to teach patients about the importance of control in life, when to pursue it, when to let go and how to balance conflicting priorities. 

The six sessions are detailed as: 

  • Discussing how life is about control – working out what we want to have more control of, and what we can have less control of. 
  • What blocks our control? Even worry, rumination and self-criticism are a problem only to the extent they get in the way of important life goals. 
  • Feeling in control short-term versus getting control of your life. Goals are organised hierarchically. 
  • Taking control of the things around you. A flexible way to work out what we have in common with people despite our disagreements. 
  • Building on strengths, qualities, and resources. Encourage participants to recall the strengths, qualities and resources they have, especially at times when things are difficult for them. 
  • Moving forward: What gets me stuck? What helps? Participants complete a worksheet on the things that are helping them feel in control and signs that they are struggling, like a “relapse prevention” session in traditional CBT. 

Attendees learn new methods for the treatment of anxiety and depression. Participants are not required to talk about their mental health, but they can do so if they wish.  

The University of Manchester researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial, involving 156 people who required treatment for anxiety and depression, who were recruited from the NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service. 

Participants were offered either the ‘Take Control Course’ or the established six sessions of one-to-one therapy provided by IAPT. The participants, who were mostly referred by their GPs, were recruited from Salford Six Degrees Social Enterprise, a low-intensity IAPT Service. 

Both forms of treatment for anxiety and depression had similar outcomes  

After a six-month follow-up, there was no evidence of any differences in mental health outcomes between the two forms of therapy. After another six-month follow-up period, however, there was not enough data to provide conclusive results. 

The researchers used a Patient Health Questionnaire Depression Scale to measure, Generalised Depression Disorder Questionnaire as well as other psychological tools to measure results. 

“This trial showed the Take Control Course could be an efficient alternative to one-to-one therapy for common mental health problems, as well as providing an evidence-based alternative for people who do not want individual therapy,” said Dr Lydia Morris, clinical Lecturer at University of Manchester and the lead author of the study.  

“There are many effective forms of treatment for anxiety and depression. However, training therapists are expensive, and some people prefer to meet in groups, rather than to talking to someone about their problems,” added Warren Mansell, Honorary Reader at The University of Manchester.  

“The success of one to one talking therapies may often depend on the match between the therapist and client. The Take Control course, however, is always delivered in exactly the same format,” he added. 


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