Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Vermont in Burlington looked at the recurrence of SAD (seasonal affective disorder or depression) in the fall/winter, one year after receiving cognitive behavioral treatment

The investigators had previously developed a group cognitive-behavioral therapy approach (CBT) specifically targeted for SAD and tested its effectiveness in 2 pilot studies that compared outcomes with light therapy.

This study examines impact during the subsequent winter season (approximately 1 year after acute treatment), following participants randomized to CBT, light therapy, and a combination of both treatments.  (N=69).

Seventeen subjects dropped out during treatment, were withdrawn from their protocol, or were just lost to follow-up.

Of the remaining subjects, the CBT (7.0%) and combination treatment (5.5%) groups had significantly smaller proportions of winter depression recurrences than the light therapy group (36.7%).

Additionally, CBT alone, but not combination treatment, was also associated with significantly lower interviewer- and patient-rated depression severity at 1 year as compared to light therapy alone. 

Among completers who provided 1-year data, all statistically significant differences between the CBT and light therapy groups persisted after adjustment for ongoing treatment with light therapy, antidepressants, and psychotherapy.

Citation: Rohan KJ, Roecklein KA, Lacy TJ, Vacek PM.Winter depression recurrence one year after cognitive-behavioral therapy, light therapy, or combination treatment.  Behavioral Therapy. 2009 Sep; 40 (3): pages 225-38. Epub 2008 Nov 3. [email protected]