Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Depression: It’s all about Perception
Depression can have debilitating effects, but thankfully there are several resources that individuals can use to overcome its harsh symptoms. One popular method used in treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of therapy consisting of strategies to help a person restructure their negative thought patterns into more positive, productive thoughts. CBT therapy helps a person confront their own beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes that they hold and challenge those views and their impact on a person’s behavior. This is a very hands-on, practical approach and combines psychotherapy and behavioral therapy, typically lasting between 5-12 months.
A recent study conducted by French et al. (2016) found that perception of cognitive behavioral therapy at the beginning of treatment predicts the use of strategies learned post-treatment. Researchers interviewed 20 participants and explored their perception of CBT and their use of strategies learned approximately 4 years after receiving treatment. The study found that if participants viewed CBT as a method for dealing with their problems, they did not use the strategies learned in CBT much after their treatment ended. Those participants reported continuous struggle with managing their symptoms of depression. For people that viewed their CBT treatment as an ongoing learning experience, they used those strategies long after treatment ended and were better able to cope with their emotions.
Perception is incredibly important when it comes to treatment – in a sense, it can serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy – if a person believes in their treatment as a process, it will be. If they view their treatment as a solution to a problem, it will be briefly but not for long, because new problems will always arise. The way in which we enter treatment sets the stage for how we use the tools that we are given. By viewing treatment as a learning process that takes time, dedication, and is ongoing, we are opening ourselves up to consistently learn and grow.
If we broaden our perception of what treatment and recovery really means, we are also giving ourselves the autonomy to handle whatever comes our way. This opens our entire world up – if we can utilize the tools that we have been taught in therapy, we have just given ourselves the power of knowing that even after therapy, we will be okay.
There will certainly be moments in which we will think to ourselves, “I wish this was over!” This is completely normal – but if we can rationalize that thought and return to the fact that we should always be striving to improve ourselves and that we can take this day by day, our results will be bountiful. Treatment is necessary for recovery, but the effects are much more longstanding if we view it as a lifelong process that we are consistently willing to work towards.