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Kelly Rohan study says best SAD therapy may be cognitive-behavioral (CBT) talk therapy

Dr. Kelly Rohan
Dr. Kelly Rohan
Photo by Mike George

People who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other types of depression will be interested in Dr. Kelly Rohan’s study, published in the September 2009 issue of the journal Behavior Therapy. In short, people who were treated for winter depression with short-term, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) had fewer relapses and fewer and less severe remaining depression symptoms one year later, than people who were treated with a combination of light therapy and CBT. And both groups that received CBT did far better than the group receiving light therapy alone.

10,000 lux light therapy or CBT for SAD?

This is a very significant finding. Recent research has been focused, not on finding new treatments for depression, but on using adjunct treatments, for example, combining two types of medications, or combining medication with light therapy or with CBT.

But Dr. Rohan’s study suggests that treating people with cognitive-behavioral therapy for SAD, as a solo treatment, will yield better results long-term than combining it with light therapy. A similar research finding several years prior showed that CBT treatment for panic disorder by itself yielded better long term results than CBT combined with medication.

CBT has long been recognized as an effective talk therapy treatment for depression. Rohan's study should make people think about whether they would like to try CBT without medication as a first line treatment.

How to find CBT SAD therapy

Dr. Rohan has published a therapist’s manual and client workbook on CBT for SAD. She told this author that CBT for SAD is relatively new, and not many therapists are aware of it. But people suffering from SAD could benefit from seeing a general cognitive-behavioral therapist. ]]

Low-cost CBT for people suffering from depression is available at Hofstra University. The Cognitive Therapy Center of Long Island in Great Neck provides CBT. And Cognitive Therapy Associates has offices in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Read this author's interviews with Dr. Kelly Rohan:

Preventing winter depression 

Dr. Kelly Rohan discusses SAD CBT therapy

10,000 lux light therapy vs. sad talk therapy


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