Adult depression study (TADS)

This study aims to help individuals with depression whose condition has not been satisfactorily improved by previous treatments. These treatments may include medication, psychological therapy or both. The study is evaluating the role of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, provided weekly over 18 months, as a treatment for this condition.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy sets out to address the personal and psychological issues which we think underlie chronic depression. Clinical experience and existing research indicate that psychoanalytic therapies work, but further investigation is needed into how effective they are for those with long-term treatment-resistant depression.



The Tavistock adult depression study (TADS) is a pragmatic, randomised, controlled trial, comparing a group who receive 18 months of once-weekly psychoanalytic psychotherapy with a control group, who receive treatment as usual from their primary care providers. The study includes a two-year follow-up after treatment completion. 

In order to match the complexity of both the condition and the treatment model under investigation, the main outcome trial is complemented by clinical research and qualitative research methodology.



The lack of randomised controlled trials in psychoanalytic psychotherapy is currently a barrier to developing better services for those requiring care. TADS aims to produce findings which develop:

  • specific understanding of how effective this form of treatment is in improving long-term treatment-resistant depression
  • a deeper understanding of the nature of this condition and of how it can be improved
  • a deeper understanding of the way in which this therapy works

The findings of TADS will contribute to the development of evidence-based medicine in respect of the most common mental disorder. They will help the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as it further develops its recommendations for the treatment of depression.



The TADS started in 2002. Recruitment into the trial ended in March 2010 and the treatment/review period was completed in December 2011. The two-year follow-up period took place in December 2013.


Research team

Principal investigator: Professor Peter Fonagy

Clinical director: Dr David Taylor

Project co-ordinator: Ms Felicitas Rost

Assistant psychologist: Ms Hannah Ridsdale

Research clinician: Dr Rachel Thomas