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Stratified Care vs. Stepped Care: Which Approach is More Effective for Treating Depression?


Clinical study finds stratified care more effective for treating depression

Depression is a widespread mental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Although there are treatments available, there is limited evidence on how to effectively personalize psychological treatment selection. A clinical study has investigated whether stratified care is a more effective and cost-efficient approach to psychological treatment selection compared with stepped care.

Clinical trial

This cluster randomized clinical trial recruited 951 adults with common mental disorders from the English National Health Service. Thirty clinicians working across 4 psychological therapy services were randomly assigned to provide stratified care or stepped care. In stepped care, patients sequentially access low-intensity guided self-help followed by high-intensity psychotherapy. In stratified care, patients are matched with either low- or high-intensity treatments at initial assessment.

The Results

The study found that stratified care was more effective and cost-effective for the treatment of depression symptoms compared with stepped care. The proportion of cases of posttreatment reliable and clinically significant improvement (RCSI) of depression symptoms was significantly higher in the stratified care group (52.3%) compared with the stepped care group (45.1%). Stratified care was associated with a higher mean additional cost per patient, but this additional cost resulted in an approximately 7% increase in the probability of RCSI.


These findings suggest that stratified care has the potential to improve depression treatment outcomes at a modest incremental cost. Stratified care is a personalized approach that matches patients with the most appropriate treatment at the initial assessment, potentially reducing the need for sequential low-intensity treatments. This approach could be particularly beneficial for patients who require more intensive treatment.


The study demonstrates that stratified care is an efficacious and cost-effective approach to psychological treatment selection compared with stepped care. It is essential to continue researching and developing personalized approaches to psychological treatment selection to ensure that patients receive the most effective and appropriate treatment for their condition.

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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. CenTrial Data Ltd. does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. Treatments and clinical trials mentioned may not be appropriate or available for all trial participants. Outcomes from treatments and clinical trials may vary from person to person. Consult with your doctor as to whether a clinical trial is a suitable option for your condition. Assistance from generative AI tools may have been used in writing this article.