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Jun 20

Depression Treatment Techniques Used in Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive Therapy is used to change negative ideas and behaviors into positive ones. By working as a team, therapist and patient examine the patient’s thoughts and actions. They analyze the truth or reality of those thoughts. Actions are tested to see if they were the best choice in the circumstances or there were other, perhaps better, possibilities.

Cognitive Therapy uses a number of techniques. One of these is reconstruction. The therapist-patient team reconstructs the stages of the patient’s depression. When did it first begin? What were the circumstances at the time? Is the depression constant or does it come and go?

The goal of reconstruction is to focus the patient on details. As the number of details increase, patterns begin to form. Patients begin to see that it is their interpretation of events or situations that is the problem and not the situations themselves.

A second technique is behavioral activation. Depressed people don’t behave in the positive ways they once did. They may no longer spend time on hobbies, visit friends, or go to the gym. This technique asks the patient to list their positive behaviors prior to depression. Then, from time to time, the patient is encouraged to “do” one of these behaviors such as visit a friend.

At the beginning, patients visit in a robotic manner. They don’t gain any satisfaction or pleasure. However, the actual fact of doing the visiting reminds the brain that once this behavior was done. Somehow, this reminding encourages the patient to do it again. The more it is repeated, the more pleasurable it becomes.

Another technique is neutralizing automatic thoughts. Most of us have such thoughts. They can be thought of as the “tape” or CD that plays in our head. A depressed person’s tape is usually filled with invalid negative thoughts. These thoughts play over and over, reinforcing themselves. They become so automatic that the patient does not stop to think about their validity or truth.

Cognitive Therapy analyzes these thoughts one by one. The patient begins to see their invalidity. Then, even if the thoughts play, their strength is much reduced.

A fourth technique involves making time for cognition or thought. For many people, life is a series of “stimulus-response”. That is, something happens to a person and he or she reacts. There is no conscious thought involved. Patients are taught to slow things down and make time for thought.

Taking time to think opens up an entire world of possibilities. Suddenly, things are not as “black and white” as they once appeared. Did the event that just happen really happen the way I think it did? Perhaps something I took as fact was really just an idea or an opinion? After such a review, it becomes clear that there is usually more than one reaction option.

Through the use of such techniques, Cognitive Therapy creates a personal “toolbox”. In this toolbox are techniques for evaluation, analysis, and decision-making. Cognitive Therapy believes that these tools will enable the patient to make the right choices more often.


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