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Abby Adler, MA

Award Name TL1

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Changing Depressive Beliefs with Cognitive Therapy

The OSU CCTS has awarded Abby Adler, MA, with a TL1 grant award for her research involving cognitive therapy for depression.

Her research on cognitive therapy, or talk therapy, is an effective approach for treating depression that involves teaching individuals different behaviors and ways of thinking, with the end goal of changing patients’ underlying negative beliefs.

“We know that cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for depression, it is just not clear on how it does (achieve its results),” said Adler.

It is unclear whether it is more important to teach coping skills that can be used when upsetting situations occur and negative thoughts are activated, or whether cognitive therapy actually changes the underlying belief so negative thoughts are no longer activated during upsetting situations.

Adler’s study uses a unique computer task which measures the participants’ underlying beliefs without the patient deliberately reporting their beliefs.

“We are measuring beliefs related to not being valued by others, because this is a common belief endorsed by depressed individuals,” said Adler.

If Adler’s research shows that it is necessary to learn coping skills to reduce depressive symptoms and prevent relapse, the treatment can end when the skills have been learned sufficiently. If the research shows that the underlying negative beliefs must change to prevent relapse, the treatment should continue until the core beliefs have been changed.

“It is important to understand how cognitive therapy works in order to improve the treatment to work better for more individuals,” said Adler.

Patients enrolled in the study receive sixteen weeks of cognitive therapy and are measured at the beginning of the treatment, at week four, and post-treatment. Follow-up interviews occur at six months and again at one year after the treatment to determine any relapse.

Despite the effective treatment, obtaining enough participants for the study and keeping them for the entire four months has been difficult. “It’s tough to keep participants and their interest high for the whole sixteen weeks and with follow ups,” said Adler.

Cognitive therapy is comparable to anti-depressant medication, but instead of changing the body’s chemical balances, the treatment changes the thought process of an individual. Adler’s research will continue into late summer, and then she will begin to analyze the data, looking for changes in key beliefs and the development of coping skills.

“This could be a building block for other researchers,” said Adler. “Once it is understood how cognitive therapy works, (we) can help people in the future.”

By Jessica Reynolds, Monday, February 19, 2010

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