CBT and Depression: What Makes CBT So Effective?

cbt and depression“I want that report on my desk, today!” Your boss demands, standing in the doorway of his office. “I don’t have time for you’re excuses; just get it done!” He disappears back into the adjacent room.

You pause a moment, looking over the paperwork on your desk, then the computer screen. A deep sigh. Will you be able to finish the task today? You nod to yourself with determination. Yes, you will.

It isn’t at all as bad as your boss makes it seem. You know he always exaggerates about things being overdue. True, you could do a little bit better job, but it’s not terrible. And you are working on improving your productivity.

“Just keep up the pace,” you tell yourself, “and don’t let him distract you. He’ll have his report by the end of the day.”

As in this scenario, at times, all of us are confronted with negative feedback at work. The imagined reaction is a fairly realistic assessment of the situation that acknowledges weaknesses, but also stays focused on the task at hand and improvements that can be made. – It’s a balanced approach.

Depression and How CBT Helps

The problem with depression is that a person suffering from it is anything but balanced.

In this same situation, depressed people experience thoughts that might easily tip over to the negative, to the point of completely spiraling deeper and deeper in negativity . Perhaps they would think that this is another example of their incompetence, or that their work is worthless, that they’ll never get finished, and that they definitely will get fired over this.

This kind of response is exactly the reason why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is such an effective treatment for depression. At its core lies the belief that a person’s mood is directly connected to their thought pattern, and that negative and abnormal thinking influences a person’s behavior, mood, and physical state in a negative way.

Through CBT, the emphasis is on helping client’s gain a greater awareness of their default negativity; restructuring their thoughts to include a more realistic self-appraisal; and help to change behavior that reinforce negative thoughts and feelings. The process includes teaching the person to monitor, and put into writing, any negative and distorted thoughts or mental images, recognizing how these affect them, and finding alternative and more balanced thoughts as replacements.

The therapist also helps the depressed person analyze how their daily activities might impact their mood; how some things might improve their symptoms and others worsen them. Together, they might create a list – from less difficult to more difficult – of activities that could be hurdles in keeping a more balanced outlook. The assignment for the client will be to master each activity.

Unquestionably, the CBT approach requires a good deal of client involvement. Clients are encouraged to make a sound and earnest effort to take an active role during therapy sessions and between sessions. Practicing at home, the skills learned during therapy sessions are an important component of this education. The goal is to make a rational approach to stressful situations a more automatic response for the person.

The beauty of CBT is its simplicity. Its approach is to empower clients by teaching them skills they can use long after the treatment sessions are finished. It is goal-oriented and because it is so pragmatic, CBT helps to reduce overwhelm and self-doubt by setting attainable and often times measurable goals. 

Overall, collective evidence points to the fact that CBT is the most established and effective, psychotherapeutic treatment available for mild to moderate depression as well as a host of other emotional struggles like anxiety, panic disorder, and phobias. 

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