Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) As a Treatment for Depression

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or Cognitive emotional behavioral therapy (CEBT) is a form of therapy that was originally developed to treat those with eating disorders.

More recently, CBT is being used to help individuals suffering from anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has also found extensive use in anger management therapy, especially in identifying healthy anger from destructive anger.

It is also widely (and very effectively) used to resolve depression, based on the theory that patterns of thought govern mood, and that negative thoughts about oneself, one’s ability to function in society, and even one’s appearance, can trigger massive depressive episodes.

CBT Therapy: What It Is

Cognitive behavior therapy is a common type of talk therapy, or psychotherapy, and one of the few forms of psychotherapy that has been scientifically tested and found to be effective – in hundreds of clinical trials – for many different disorders, notably eating disorders (which are rooted in beliefs about self-worth), and depression.

However, CBT is not a distinct therapeutic technique, and can incorporate Gestalt therapy, compassion focused therapy, mindfulness, solution-focused therapy, motivational interviewing, positive psychology, interpersonal psychotherapy, and psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Cognitive behavior therapy itself earns the label “cognitive”, or thinking, because it is patients’ perception of situations that determines emotional reaction. In other words, perception is a greater determinant of mood than the situation itself.

To illustrate, individuals viewing an episode of a cooking show on television will have several different reactions, but the two most relevant will be, “I can do that!” based on high self-image, and, “I could never do that, I’m not smart enough.” based on low self-image and major depression.

These spontaneous reactions are known as “automatic thoughts”, and determine self-image and behavior, sometimes to a greater extent than the real world.

How It Works

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on the role of thoughts in behavior and mood. This “inductive” therapy allows the patient – under the supervision and with the help of a therapist – to access a reservoir of negative or nonproductive thoughts or beliefs, and from that to derive more effective patterns of behavior.

Deductive therapy, on the other hand, focuses on external stimuli as determinants of behavior, and this deductive, or “top-down” analysis works by identifying healthier responses to stimuli, and modifying behaviors to achieve it.

Often identified as a form of stoicism, CBT aims to teach individuals how to separate the problem from their reaction to the problem. This is why CBT is sometimes described as a Socratic method, since the therapist asks questions to help the patient identify where errors in thought, rather than external effects, cause disturbed thinking, as is the case in major depression or clinical depression.

How Long Does CBT Take?

Unlike some other therapies, CBT accomplishes its objective rather quickly. In this respect, it is essentially self-limiting. When it fails, more in-depth psychotherapeutic methods are recommended. However, the failure of CBT is never seen as the fault of either the patient or the therapist because, while a secure relationship is necessary, it is never the focus of CBT therapy, and CBT even offers methods by which the therapist can prevent transference, even in such emotionally fraught conditions as major depression.

CBT and Depression

CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating mental health disorders such as depression. In fact, given the self-destructive nature of clinical depression, it is an excellent tool to begin shaping the situation in the patient’s eyes.

Often times, less than one-fifth of depression sufferers are treated with CBT, even though it is the “most established evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatment” in the therapist’s arsenal. This is largely because too few therapists are trained in the proper applications of CBT.

As a standalone therapy, CBT has been proven in randomized controlled trials to be more effective in generating remission in depressive patients than either pharmaceuticals or nonspecific psychotherapy. According to research conducted by the Veteran’s Administration/Department of Defense, “Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Depressive Disorder” (2009), CBT is “an empirically-validated psychotherapy that is recommended as a first-line treatment for depression.”

Newport Beach Psychologist, Dimitra Takos, PsyD.

Article was originally posted here.