Understanding the threat and dangers of depression to an individual deepens, pushing researchers explore interventions to treat it. The disorder can affect individuals of different ages and significantly interfere with their lives. At the same time, interest in psychoeducational interventions in cases of depression is growing. However, this approach was previously considered more concerning bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (Jones et al., 2018). The current paper considers the peculiarities of the application of psychoeducation in depression, including advantages, limitations, and ethical aspects.
Psychoeducation combines therapeutic techniques and educational approaches, giving clients information relevant to their problems. For this reason, it is essential for the provider of psychological assistance to have the skills and competencies to teach their wards. This intervention is based on various theories, including cognitive behavioral therapy, stress and coping model, and other approaches. Psychoeducation can be applied for multiple disorders, including depression, as a primary or additional approach, and for a group, individual, and family therapy. In addition to education, it involves support for the client and guidance in coping techniques. At the same time, therapy participants are actively engaged in work and cooperation.
The use of such an intervention in treating depression can have various forms and results. Studying psychoeducation for depression in adolescents, Jones et al. (2018) noted family, individual, and online interventions. In the first case, relatives expanded their knowledge of the disorder and treatment strategies, which subsequently improved the condition of an adolescent with depression. Improvement also occurred in families with parents’ history of the disorder. The considered individual interventions significantly focused on clients’ lifestyles, and behavioral activation physical activity showed a beneficial impact. Online interventions focused on teaching more than therapy, but adolescents positively assessed this format. The review showed the beneficial effect of psychoeducation on the condition of clients and noted the importance of family support. Jones et al. (2018) note that their findings are consistent with adult depression intervention studies. Therefore, one can assume that psychoeducation benefits clients with depression of different ages.
Some studies explore in more detail specific forms of intervention under consideration. Rigabert et al. (2020) focus their systematic review on online psychoeducation and its ability to reduce depressive symptoms and prevent the development of the disorder among the non-depressed population. The authors found that most psychoeducational interventions were based on cognitive behavioral therapy and had moderate success in reducing symptoms and avoiding depression. Although the evidence is of medium quality, the findings may help develop methods to avert the disorder. Preventive measures can significantly improve the quality of life and reduce the economic burden of depression.
Psychoeducation is widely used as an adjunct to the primary treatment method. Schuster et al. (2018), studying mixed groups in the treatment of depression, developed a psychoeducational intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy and conducted it online. Although the authors’ observations predominantly focused on the effectiveness of group therapy, psychoeducation is successfully applied in this format. Their intervention achieved positive results in reducing symptoms in depressed clients, indicating the effectiveness of the psychoeducational intervention. Studies demonstrate such an approach is applicable in various formats and settings and has significant potential in treating depression.
Strengths and Limitations
The features of psychoeducational intervention imply some benefits for clients. For example, knowledge of the disorder improves its understanding, attitude, and treatment adherence. One of the critical advantages of psychoeducational for clients is considerable freedom of choice about their care (Jones et al., 2018). Moreover, such intervention contributes to the development of resilience, an essential skill in treating depression. In the case of family support, psychoeducation improves mutual understanding and helps resolve conflicts.
Although psychoeducation is a promising direction for treating depression, it requires more research, and intervention has certain limitations. In particular, psychoeducation has rather blurred boundaries, which presents difficulties in determining it. Moreover, much information provided with the approach can become an obstacle since depression is often accompanied by decreased concentration. Such a circumstance can tire and push the client away from treatment. Information about the disorder can also be an additional factor for anxiety and worsening symptoms.
A vital aspect to consider when applying any intervention is the ethical component. In particular, privacy issues are of critical importance, and are among the foundations of trust. In cases of the online format of psychoeducational interventions, privacy requires additional efforts. Moreover, specialists need to consider the digital literacy of their clients, the levels of which are quite contrasting in different population groups. Psychoeducational interventions in depression are often built on cognitive behavioral therapy using restructuring. This approach receives criticism for missing out on the cultural and historical aspects when dealing with minorities. Ancestral history and experience, and still existing discrimination, have a significant impact on them. Specialists need to consider these facts, be respectful of different cultures, and adapt practice accordingly.
The use of psychoeducational interventions in depression is not yet sufficiently studied since the approach has previously been used predominantly in other disorders. Psychoeducation involves providing information about the condition and guiding to coping strategies. As a result, clients gain much freedom in their care, receive more understanding, and are committed to treatment. The intervention has its limitations, such as a threat of worsening symptoms due to the information received. However, its use is possible in various formats and circumstances, and studies provide evidence of effectiveness in reducing depressive symptoms.
Jones, R. B., Thapar, A., Stone, Z., Thapar, A., Jones, I., Smith, D., & Simpson, S. (2018). Psychoeducational interventions in adolescent depression: A systematic review. Patient Education and Counseling, 101(5), 804-816.
Rigabert, A., Motrico, E., Moreno-Peral, P., Resurrección, D. M., Conejo-Cerón, S., Cuijpers, P., Martín-Gómez, C., López-Del-Hoyo, Y., & Bellón, J. Á. (2020). Effectiveness of online psychological and psychoeducational interventions to prevent depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clinical Psychology Review, 82, 1-14.
Schuster, R., Fichtenbauer, I., Sparr, V. M., Berger, T., & Laireiter, A. R. (2018). Feasibility of a blended group treatment (bGT) for major depression: Uncontrolled interventional study in a university setting. BMJ Open, 8(3), 1-11.