“Do Antidepressants Work?” A Humanistic Perspective on a Long-Standing and Contentious Debate


Cosgrove, L., Troeger, R., & Karter, J. M. The Humanistic Psychologist, 48(3), 221-231

Since the approval of fluoxetine in 1987, there have been contentious debates about whether antidepressants “work.” A recent meta-analysis on the efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants reinvigorated debates about their effectiveness—debates that have important implications for both research and practice in humanistic psychology. This article briefly discusses the findings and identifies the limitations of this meta-analysis, and we show that using psychopharmacology as a routine first response is not evidence based and incongruent with the basic principles of humanistic psychology. Additionally, we argue that the question “do antidepressants work?” is reductive and undermines our responsibility to individuals who are suffering from emotional distress. Responding to the Cipriani et al. (2018) study from a humanistic lens (a) deepens our appreciation for the lived experience of individuals diagnosed with depression and our responsibility to them, (b) complicates assumptions about the ontological status of “depression,” and (c) enhances collaborative, client-centered decision-making. Read more