Background: Depression is common among primary care patients and among those recognized the usual treatment often consists of antidepressants and supportive counselling/follow-ups. Previous studies have shown that patients and professionals have different beliefs about treatment which in turn can decrease acceptance of the diagnosis, compliance and treatment outcome.
Methods: Depressed primary care patients (N=184) who considered themselves improved at follow-up answered an open-ended question about what they believed had made them better. Among these 117 patients had, in addition to treatment as usual, participated in an intervention with patient education and group counselling (the Contactus program) while 67 were controls. The groups were comparable at baseline and 82 % were on antidepressants.
Results: In total, the patients mentioned 14 separate improving factors which could be organized to the larger themes external factors, self-management, passing spontaneously and professional help. The most frequently mentioned factors for improvement were the Contactus program (53.0 %), antidepressants (40.2 %) and personal development (27.2 %). Few gender and age differences were seen. The controls who mentioned professional help were more likely to have a better outcome.
Limitations: The construct of the open-ended question did not allow us to analyze the rank order of importance of each improving factor.
Conclusions: The patients were generally positive to professional help such as antidepressants and the Contactus program. Patient education and group counselling seems to be a valuable supplement to treatment of depressed patients in primary care.