According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 people experience some form of mental health problem during the average year and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK. In 2012 alone, the NHS dispensed over 50 million prescriptions of anti-depressive drugs, costing the NHS well over £200 million.

Acupuncture and various forms of counselling and psychotherapy, have been used for decades by a wide range of patients to help alleviate and reduce the symptoms of depression. In the case of acupuncture, this may seem surprising to some, given that acupuncture has gained increased acceptance in the Western medical world for its capacity to treat muscular-skeletal pain and migraines…but not so far for emotional or “mental health” related problems. Yet, as a recently published research paper shows, acupuncture, as well as counselling, can help with depression and offer an opportunity for people to perhaps – following consultations with their doctor – reduce or stop taking anti-depressive drugs, which can have a large number of negative health effects (see for example the side-effects list for one standard set of anti-depressive drugs:  Tricyclics and other related drugs).

The paper, entitled “Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial” examines outcomes for 755 patients with depression. 1 group of patients receive acupuncture, another receives counselling, and another receives “usual care alone”. Depression scores were more significantly reduced in patients using either acupuncture or counselling than in usual care, both after 3 months from their initial treatment, and on follow up 12 months later. In other words, the positive effects of both acupuncture and counselling were still felt 1 year after treatment.

The conclusion from the research paper reads as follows:

“To our knowledge, our study is the first to rigorously evaluate the clinical and economic impact of acupuncture and counselling for patients in primary care who are representative of those who continue to experience depression in primary care. We have provided evidence that acupuncture versus usual care and counselling versus usual care are both associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events.”

To seek an acupuncture practitioner in the York area, see

To seek a psychotherapist of counsellor in the York area, see



MacPherson, H., Richmond, S., Bland, M., Brealey, S., Gabe, R., Hopton, A., Keding, A., Lansdown, H., Perren, S., Sculpher, M., Spackman, E., Torgerson, D. & Watt, I. (2013) Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial. PLoS Med, 10 (9), p.p.e1001518. Available from: [Accessed 22 October 2013].

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