Cognitive Therapy For Depression

Keith S. Dobson

Cognitive therapy (CT) was first named and identified as a distinct type of treatment in an article in 1970 (Beck, 1970), in which Aaron Beck described CT, and distinguished it from behavior therapy, based on the increased attention paid to negative thinking in CT and the importance of core negative beliefs, also seen to be pivotal in the genesis of depression. In the mid-1970s, Beck and colleagues engaged in the first trial of this new form of treatment for depression (Rush, Beck, Kovacs, & Hollon, 1977; Rush, Hollon, Beck, & Kovacs, 1978). In a trial that compared the efficacy of CT relative to antidepressant medication, superior outcomes were reported for CT, particularly at the follow-up assessment. It is fair to say that these results caused a minor sensation in the fields of psychiatry and psychology: first, because the results presented a credible research trial that challenged the "gold standard" of medications for depression, and second, because they provided a manualized treatment that could, in principle, be evaluated and then disseminated. In the wake of the discussion about the research trial, the publication of Cognitive Therapy of Depression (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979) led to widespread interest in CT. Indeed, although the book is now over 25 years old, it is still widely used as a training manual and stands as the definitive description of this treatment approach to depression.

This chapter provides a description of the fundamental aspects of CT for depression, including its typical course and the prototypical interventions used in this treatment model. Finally, toward the end of this chapter, some of the essential research outcomes associated with CT of depression are presented.

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