Psychotherapy study: Researchers seek a way out of chronic depression

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Professor Kai Kahl; Copyright: Nelli Polle.
Professor Kai Kahl; Copyright: Nelli Polle.
The multicentre ChangePDD project compares the effectiveness of two different therapies. MHH Psychiatry is involved and offers places for study participants.


One third of all depressive disorders are chronic. According to estimates, 1.2 million people in Germany currently live with chronic depression. Often, those affected have already received several therapies, but none has had a sufficient effect. This is where the study "Changing Persistent Depression Disorder" (ChangePDD) comes in. The Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Hannover Medical School (MHH) is also involved. The study compares two different psychotherapies. The goal: "We want to learn more about the mode of action of psychotherapies in order to better adapt the treatment to the individual needs of the patients," explains Kai Kahl, head of the MHH study centre.

So far no scientifically based treatment

"People with chronic depression are particularly at risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases, slipping into incapacity to work and early retirement," says Professor Kahl. This is not only an extremely difficult situation for those affected personally, but also an economic burden. "Unfortunately, there is no scientifically supported treatment for this group of patients so far," regrets the psychiatrist. The Change PDD study will now compare the two therapy programmes "Cognitive-Behavioural Analysis System of Psychotherapy" (CBASP) and "Behavioural Activation" (BA). Apart from the MHH, where graduate psychologist Philippa Gebhardt is coordinating the study, six other study centres are involved in the project.Eva-Lotta Brakemeier from the University of Greifswald is in charge of the study.

Established versus new therapy

CBASP is a newer therapeutic approach developed specifically for patients with chronic depression. The integrative procedure combines several therapeutic methods. The focus of treatment is on healing corrective relational experiences and situational analyses of interpersonal difficulties. BA, in turn, is an established variant of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is considered the "gold standard" in the treatment of depression. The focus of this therapy is on the interaction of the person with the environment. By breaking down barriers and building up behavioural skills, the aim is to increase the patients’ activity.

Which trial works for which people?

Which of the two treatment methods shows the better effect in the patient group with chronic depression? That is the most important question that the study aims to answer. "It is equally interesting for us to find out which of the two therapies works better in which patients and why," explains Professor Kahl. A total of 396 patients are included in the ChangePDD project. All of them will undergo a therapy programme consisting of a ten-week acute treatment and a subsequent six-week maintenance therapy. The acute treatment takes place in an inpatient setting, but half of it can also be carried out in a day clinic. The maintenance therapy takes place on an outpatient basis in a group. After a total of 16 weeks of therapy, participants are followed up and observed for 48 weeks.

Participants wanted

The Clinic for Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy is still offering places to participate in the ChangePDD study. "Patients who participate in the project benefit, for example, from not having to wait long periods of time before being admitted to the clinic," explains Professor Kahl. In addition, they receive comprehensive psychiatric diagnostics and care from professional staff during the entire participation period.

For more information about the study and conditions of participation, interested parties can contact ChangePDD @