According to recent research, the key to helping people overcome moderate to severe depression is to break those negative thought patterns. What we’re talking about here is Cognitive Therapy, which focuses more on changing how you think about things as opposed to changing how you behave.
The study, which was carried out by Daniel Strunk from Ohio State University, Melissa Brotman of the National Institute of Mental Health and Robert DeRubeis of the University of Pennsylvania, found that behaviour changing techniques had little effect on depression symptoms whereas breaking negative thought patterns did.
The study involved 60 patients who had been diagnosed with major depression. Each of the participants saw one of six cognitive therapists in a series of sessions and all of the participants agreed to their sessions with therapists being recorded on video.
The tapes of these recordings were then studied by trained raters who identified whether cognitive techniques or behavioural techniques were being used by the therapists. The patients were also asked to complete a depression questionnaire after each session.
On analysing the data the researchers noticed that depression symptoms improved significantly when the therapist used cognitive techniques.
“There has been a lot of attention recently on behavioural approaches to treating severe depression, and that may lead some people to suspect that cognitive techniques are not important for more severely depressed patients,” said Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
“But our results suggest that it was the cognitive strategies that actually helped patients improve the most during the first critical weeks of cognitive-behavioural therapy.”
The research also revealed that patients who got more involved with the therapy process showed greater improvement.
“If you’re a patient and willing to fully commit to the therapy process, our data suggest you will see more benefit,” Strunk said.
The research is being continued at Ohio State’s Depression Treatment and Research Clinic and the researchers are hoping to shed more light on cognitive therapy and how it can help combat depression.
“We’re trying to understand if cognitive therapy leads people to a profound change in their basic self view, or if it teaches them a set of skills that they have to continually practice over time,” said Strunk.
The results have been published in the online version of the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.Learn how I beat Depression