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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression

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Who Can Benefit From CBT? continued...

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
  • has an internal locus of control
  • 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.

Other examples of automatic thinking include:

  • Always thinking the worst is going to happen. For instance, a person may convince himself he is about to lose his job because the boss didn't talk to him that morning or he heard an unsubstantiated rumor that his department was going to cut back.
  • Always putting the blame on oneself even when there is no involvement in something bad that happened. For example, if someone did not return your call, you might blame it on the fact that you are somehow a very unlikeable person.
  • Exaggerating the negative aspects of something rather than the positive. Think of someone who exercises a stock option from a bonus a week before the stock rises another 10%. Instead of enjoying the bonus money he just got, he tells himself he never gets the breaks or that he's too afraid to take risks that he should take. If he weren't, he would have known to wait.

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