One form of treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) is acute phase cognitive therapy (CT), which typically lasts for 12 weeks. MDD occurs in nearly 16% of Americans and is characterized by depressive symptoms and a decline in psychosocial functioning, which can severely impair one’s ability to work. The inability to function costs the American economy approximately $50 billion a year, and yet psychosocial functioning treatment outcomes have not been explored thoroughly. It is well known that having diminished psychosocial functioning abilities increases depressive symptoms. For instance, people who are not able to work or communicate well with family or friends may feel more isolated and worthless. This dynamic can lead to poor treatment response and even relapse. Although changes in symptom severity have been studied exhaustively in the past, a recent study led by T.W. Dunn of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, is among the first to look specifically at the trajectory of psychosocial functioning during acute phase CT for MDD.
Dunn examined the levels of symptom severity and psychosocial functioning in 523 individuals who were undergoing acute phase CT. The participants were evaluated four times during the course of their 12-week treatment. Dunn discovered that similar to previous studies, the clients did exhibit a decrease in symptom severity. But this decrease did not predict an increase in psychosocial functioning. Instead, the findings revealed that increases in psychosocial functioning, as a result of behavioral therapy, predicted a decrease in depressive symptoms. The participants who showed improved functioning in social domains, such as re-engaging in social activities or limiting avoidant behaviors, were actually less depressed. Dunn believes that the findings of this study support the theory that behavior transformation through social engagement during acute MDD can have a significant positive impact on depressive symptoms. Dunn added, “Although researchers need to clarify how psychosocial functioning changes during acute-phase treatment, the current study suggests that early efforts by CT therapists to change depressed patients’ behavior are well warranted.”
Dunn, T. W., Vittengl, J. R., Clark, L. A., Thase, M. E., Jarrett, R. B. Change in Psychosocial Functioning and Depressive Symptoms during Acute-phase Cognitive Therapy for Depression. Psychological Medicine 42.2 (2012): 317-26. Print.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.