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Can cognitive behavior therapy help treat depression?

A Short-term Option

Like many psychotherapies, it's difficult to pinpoint a specific timeframe for a positive outcome with CBT. However, since it deals with the present -- focusing on what and how a person thinks instead of why a person thinks that way -- CBT is considered to be a short-term depression treatment, limited to fewer than 20 weeks.

The first eight weeks are typically set aside for the patient to become familiar with the recommended skills and to understand the CBT model (many patients see a reduction of symptoms during this phase). Between eight and 12 weeks, patients often report a remission of depression symptoms, and the remaining sessions are usually reserved for further refinement and reinforcement of coping skills and to address any issues related to ending the therapy. More severe cases, however, may take longer to resolve [source: WebMD].

What are some cognitive behavior therapy techniques?

For starters, CBT begins with a frank and open discussion between patient and a trained therapist. Each subsequent 50-minute session, in general, begins with a review of the patient's mood and symptoms, and establishing reasonable short- and long-term goals. The agenda will typically review prior meetings, discuss homework assignments (including pitfalls and successes), assign new homework that addresses current needs and goals, and a summation of the session.

Two specific tasks form the basis of CBT. The first is cognitive restructuring, in which the therapist and patient work together to change thinking patterns. The second is behavioral activation, in which patients learn techniques to overcome obstacles to participating in pleasurable activities.