PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For depression, which is better: counseling or acupuncture?

A recent study says both work equally well.

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“I was somewhat surprised that the acupuncture was found to be as successful as the counseling,” says Geln Getz, Ph. D., a neuropsychologist at Allegheny General Hospital.

“Sometimes if we just think about depression, we think it is just something as just a mental imbalances, and acupuncture we take a whole body approach to the patient,” says acupuncturist Daniel Johnson of Wholistic Acupuncture & Yoga.

In the study of 755 patients, 33 percent were no longer depressed after three months of acupuncture or counseling. For those who got neither, only 20 percent were no longer depressed. The effect lasted for three months after the treatment was stopped.

In the study, moderately to severely depressed patients got 12 weekly acupuncture treatments.

“We start to open up circulation, the body releases natural endorphins, natural serotonin, natural anti-inflammatories,” said Johnson. “We get this big overall change in –ahhh — relaxing.”

Or patients got 12 weekly counseling sessions.

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“If we think differently, if we do different activities, we start to feel better about ourselves,” explains Getz. “From a neurophysiological perspective, the thought is that’s activating the limbic system, and releasing neurochemicals that our bodies like that make us feel good.”

Or neither.

The depression scores for those getting acupuncture improved to the mild level. Those getting counseling improved to the moderate, almost mild, level. The scores for these two groups were not meaningfully different when they were statistically analyzed.

The researchers caution that counseling and acupuncture are not substitutes for medicine. In fact, most of the study participants remained on medication through the study.

The main message?

“Different things ultimately work for different people,” says Getz.

That could be counseling, acupuncture, medicine or exercise based on genetic and environmental factors, and the type of emotional trauma leading to depression.

“I’ve had people who have said acupuncture is a waste of their 65 dollars, I’ve had people say they go back repeatedly because it does provide a relaxation state they don’t otherwise have in their life,” he adds.

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