Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a brief form of psychotherapy used in the treatment of adults and children with depression. Its focus is on current issues and symptoms versus more traditional forms of therapy which tend to focus on a person's past history. The usual format is weekly therapy sessions coupled with daily practice exercises designed to help the patient apply CBT skills in their home environment.
CBT for depression involves several essential features: identifying and correcting inaccurate thoughts associated with depressed feelings (cognitive restructuring), helping patients to engage more often in enjoyable activities (behavioral activation), and enhancing problem-solving skills. The first of these components, cognitive restructuring, involves collaboration between the patient and the therapist to identify and modify habitual errors in thinking that are associated with depression. Depressed patients often experience distorted thoughts about themselves (e.g. I am stupid), their environment (e.g. My life is terrible) and their future (e.g. There is no sense in going forward, nothing will work out for me). Information from the patient's current experience, past history, and future prospects is used to counter these distorted thoughts. In addition to self-critical thoughts, patients with depression typically cut back on activities that have the potential to be enjoyable to them, because they anticipate that such activities will not be worth their effort. Unfortunately this usually results in a vicious cycle, wherein depressed mood leads to less activity, which in turn results in further depressed mood, etc.
The second component of CBT, behavioral activation, seeks to remedy this downward spiral by negotiating gradual increases in potentially rewarding activities with the patient. When patients are depressed, problems in daily living often seem insurmountable. In the final process, the CBT therapist provides instruction and guidance in specific strategies for solving problems (e.g. breaking problems down into small steps).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a scientifically well-established and effective treatment for depression. Over 75% of patients show significant improvements. The Depression Center offers both group and individual CBT with experienced and well-trained clinicians. Patients have the option to use the treatment alone (especially in mild to moderate cases) or in combination with medication.
To learn more about CBT, go to www.aabt.org.