Psychotherapy is Sought More When Optimism is at a Low

Being pessimistic does not always lead someone to psychotherapy. But according to a new study conducted by a group of Finnish researchers, dips in optimism are linked to an increase in people seeking psychotherapy treatment for depressive symptoms. Personality is also a contributing factor for someone to determine whether or not to seek treatment through psychotherapy. However, the study focused on trying to find if there was a clear link between pessimism and optimism and the choice to enter psychotherapy for depressive symptoms in people who had not previously been depressed. The participants were all public sector employees and had responded to several surveys over many years. None of the over 38,000 participants had ever reported symptoms of depression in the past.

The researchers examined the levels of pessimism and optimism using the revised Life Orientation Test, individual records and national health registers. They followed up with the participants after four years and discovered that nearly four percent of the test subjects had developed symptoms of depression. Of that segment, 79 had begun to treat their depression with long-term psychotherapy funded by the state. The researchers also discovered that as optimism increased, the number of people who chose to enter psychotherapy decreased by nearly 38 percent. Additionally, people were 32 percent less likely to enter psychotherapy for any depressive issues when their optimism increased. The researchers also noticed that pessimism did not increase the likelihood of someone initiating psychotherapy for the treatment of depressive symptoms. However, an increase in pessimism showed a 28 percent higher chance of someone developing a problem with depressive moods. The researchers conclude that although both pessimism and optimism can increase the likelihood for developing depression, only a decrease in optimism in linked to the decision to begin psychotherapy for the treatment of depressive symptoms. They add that perhaps more attention should be given to people who have both depression and low optimism.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • lisa


    July 19th, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    people don’t generally seek treatment unless it disrupts their regular acivitues or they feel like they’re being held back by the problems.this outlook has to change.if you’re not feeling perfect then it’s time to seek help,simple.

    well I can imagine they would have constraints but if they don’t seek help they’re making things worse for themselves.

  • Lesley-Ann Day

    Lesley-Ann Day

    July 20th, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    “The researchers also noticed that pessimism did not increase the likelihood of someone initiating psychotherapy for the treatment of depressive symptoms.” I found this strange at first but when I thought more about it that does make sense.

    The more pessimistic you become, the more likely you are to need that help although you may not seek it because you can’t see anything positive coming out of getting help at that time. “What’s the point?” That’s what your mindset would be.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article.

  • r.edwards


    July 20th, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    @Lisa–I don’t think the outlook needs to change. I’d rather not have to make an appointment every time I had a bad day. That would be more of a problem than simply toughing it out for a little while.

    Life has its ups and downs and you don’t always need to rush to a therapist to get through them. If you have serious issues, yes bit for the day to day irritations, you’d be wasting their time.

  • Clara Shaw

    Clara Shaw

    July 20th, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    @r.edwards: Ah, but is the average person capable of discerning whether those minor irritations are truly minor and whether they actually stem from more serious issues? I doubt it.

    The danger there is that you’ll end up putting it off when you need it until the stress is just too much to go it alone. Taking care of yourself will get you far in life and that includes recognizing when it’s time to get a professional opinion.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on