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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression

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Who Can Benefit From CBT?

Anyone with mild or moderate depression can potentially benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, even without taking medication. A number of studies have shown CBT to be at least as effective as antidepressants in treating mild and moderate depression. Studies also show that a combination of antidepressants and CBT can be effective in treating major depression.

CBT can be an effective treatment for mild and moderate depression in adolescents as well. It's also been shown to be effective at reducing relapses in patients who experience frequent relapses after having gone through other treatments.

Nearly two out of every three patients who are treated successfully for depression are treated with medications alone. Other patients, though, have lingering symptoms even when medication is partially working. CBT can be effectively used to treat many of these patients.

Although a wide range of people respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy, experts point out that the type of person likely to get the most benefit is someone who:

  • Is motivated
  • Sees him or herself as able to control the events that happen around them
  • Has the capacity for introspection

What Is Cognitive Restructuring?

Cognitive restructuring refers to the process in CBT of identifying and changing inaccurate negative thoughts that contribute to the development of depression. This is done collaboratively between the patient and therapist, often in the form of a dialogue. For instance, a college student may have failed a math quiz and responded by saying, "That just proves I'm stupid."

The therapist might ask if that's really what the test means. In order to help the student recognize the inaccuracy of the response, the therapist could ask what the student's overall grade is in math. If the student answers, "It's a B," the therapist can then point out that his answer shows he's not stupid because he couldn't be stupid and get a B. Then together they can explore ways to reframe what the performance on the quiz actually says.

The "I'm stupid" response is an example of an automatic thought. Patients with depression may have automatic thoughts in response to certain situations. They're automatic in that they're spontaneous, negative, and don't come out of deliberate thinking or logic. These are often underpinned by a negative or dysfunctional assumption that is guiding the way patients view themselves, the situation, or the world around them.

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