Cognitive therapy is the most studied psychotherapy. It concentrates on correcting the distortions in thinking and perception that underlie and reinforce depressed mood. Cognitive therapy seek to change the way the depressed person consciously thinks about failure, defeat, loss, and helplessness.
Research and clinical trials have shown that cognitive therapy is as effective as antidepressant drugs in treating moderate depression. However, while there is a high rate of relapse of depression when drug therapy is used, the relapse rate for cognitive therapy is much lower. Also, people who take drugs for depression tend to have to stay on them for the rest of their lives. In cognitive therapy, the patient is taught new skills for dealing with depression and can successfully be rehabilitated.
People with depression spend most of their waking hours preoccupied with dismal thoughts about themselves, the world around them, and their future. They are filled with negative thoughts of being worthless, reprehensible, despicable, burdensome, and doomed. Their thinking becomes negatively distorted. If something bad happens, it is automatically your fault, a sign of personal inadequacy, and proof that nothing will ever work out right for you. Alternatively, if something good happens, it is just a coincidence.
The goal of cognitive therapy is to allow the patient to take a large mental step back to gain better perspective or insight into his or her life and behavior. The therapy helps the patient to see the negative thoughts for what they really are: distortions that are the by-products of their depression. Once these are identified, the therapist will help them to challenge it with more rational alternatives.
Cognitive therapists employ five basic tactics:
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