The Cognitive Approach To Treating Depression

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) combines cognitive and behavioural approaches to address depression. The cognitive aspect targets the identification and replacement of negative and irrational thoughts with positive ones. The behavioural component encourages patients to test their beliefs through experiments and homework.

CBT comprises several components:

  • Initial assessment
  • Goal setting
  • Identifying and challenging negative/irrational thoughts, using either Beck’s Cognitive Therapy or Ellis’s REBT
  • Homework

There are two strands of CBT based on Beck’s theory and Ellis’s ABC model. Both start with an initial assessment, followed by goal-setting and action planning. While both aim to identify negative and irrational thoughts, Beck’s Cognitive Therapy focuses on the negative triad, whereas Ellis’s REBT employs dispute to challenge irrational beliefs.

Beck’s Cognitive Therapy involves discussing evidence for and against negative thoughts and encouraging patients to test their validity through homework.

Ellis’s REBT uses the ABCDE model, disputing irrational beliefs through logical or empirical dispute. Homework assignments involve identifying and challenging irrational beliefs to facilitate belief change. For instance, someone anxious in social situations might be assigned the homework of meeting a friend for a drink to challenge and alter their beliefs.

Evaluation of the Cognitive Approach To Treating Depression (A03)

+ Supporting Study= March et al. (2007) conducted research indicating that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is equally effective to antidepressants in treating depression. The study involved 327 adolescents diagnosed with depression, assessing the effectiveness of CBT, antidepressants, and a combination of both. After 36 weeks, 81% of the antidepressant group and 81% of the CBT group showed significant improvement, underscoring CBT's effectiveness. Notably, 86% of the combined CBT plus antidepressant group demonstrated significant improvement, suggesting that a combination of both treatments may be more effective in treating depression.

—Appropriateness=  An obstacle with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is its dependency on patient motivation. Individuals experiencing severe depression may struggle to engage with or attend CBT sessions, rendering this treatment ineffective for them. In contrast, alternative treatments like antidepressants don't demand the same level of motivation and may prove more effective in such cases. This presents a challenge for CBT, as it cannot serve as the sole treatment for severely depressed patients.


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