Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

What is CBT?

CBT is a well-established, evidence-based treatment approach for depression.  Over 75% of patients show significant improvements after participating in CBT.  CBT can be employed alone or in combination with medication. For those with moderate or severe depression, the best results are achieved when CBT and medication are used in combination.

CBT focuses on the link between mood, thoughts and actions to help patients address current issues and symptoms.  This is in contrast to some psychotherapeutic approaches which primarily emphasize an individual’s past history. CBT helps patients recognize and modify recurrent issues and thought and behavior patterns that interfere with functioning well or that make depressive symptoms worse. CBT commonly combines eight to twelve regular (perhaps weekly) sessions with a trained therapist who assigns exercises that individuals can practice daily to apply CBT skills on their own. 

During CBT, the therapist works with the individual to:

Identify and correct the inaccurate thoughts that may trigger depressed feelings – depressed people often experience distorted negative thoughts about themselves or their situations (for example, characterizing themselves as stupid or their lives as worthless).  By working to reveal more accurate information about what’s currently happening with the individual, these negative thoughts about oneself, the world and the future can be countered with a more realistic picture of both the present and the future. This typically has a beneficial impact on mood and future behaviors.

Encourage the individual to take part in enjoyable activities – when suffering from depression, it is common for a patient to stop participating in activities or hobbies that would otherwise help them feel better.  A decrease in these activities often begins a cycle of feeling depressed, avoiding activities, and feeling even more depressed.  In CBT, the therapist works with the patient to break this cycle, promoting a gradual increase in participation in pleasurable activities.

Improve problem-solving and coping skills – when depression is present, the problems of daily life can seem insurmountable.  During CBT, the therapist can provide instruction and guidance to develop better problem-solving strategies.