MONDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy -- a type of therapy oriented toward problem-solving -- may help the depressed in residential treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse.

Many people with substance disorders and depression fail to receive treatment for both conditions. "The consequences of this unmet need are great," the study authors write. "The interactive nature of the two disorders leads to poorer depression and substance abuse treatment outcomes compared with the outcomes when only one disorder is present."

Researchers led by Dr. Katherine E. Watkins of the RAND Corp. studied patients at behavioral health services facilities in Los Angeles between 2006 and 2009. Every four months, the facilities alternated between providing regular care for substance abuse and care plus cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to change dysfunctional behaviors through changing the way people think about things.

About 300 patients took part; most, on average, were severely depressed.

After three months, nearly 56 percent of those in the group with extra treatment had minimal symptoms of depression, compared to only about a third in the group that got regular care; at six months, those numbers were nearly 64 percent vs. 44 percent.

Among patients no longer living in a residential treatment facility, those in the group with added cognitive-behavioral therapy had fewer days of drug abuse and fewer drinking days than did those in the control group.

The study appears in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

More information

For more on depression, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.