A new study has found that people who are suffering from depression may benefit from a psychological treatment called 'concreteness training'. The innovative treatment can help reduce depression in just two months and could work as a self-help therapy for depression in primary care.
People suffering from depression have a tendency towards unhelpful abstract thinking and over-general negative thoughts, such as viewing a single mistake as evidence that they are useless at everything.
Concreteness training (CNT) is a novel and unique treatment approach that attempts to directly target this tendency. Repeated practice of CNT exercises can help people to shift their thinking style.
CNT teaches people how to be more specific when reflecting on problems. This can help them to keep difficulties in perspective, improve problem solving and reduce worry, brooding, and depressed mood.
In the study led by the University of Exeter, 121 individuals who were currently experiencing an episode of depression were recruited from GP practices.
They were randomly allocated into three groups. A third received their usual treatment from their GP, plus CNT, while some were offered relaxation training in addition to their usual treatment and the remainder simply continued their usual treatment.
CNT significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, on average reducing symptoms from severe depression to mild depression during the first two months and maintaining this effect over the following three and six months.
On average, those individuals who simply continued with their usual treatment remained severely depressed.
Although concreteness training and relaxation training both significantly reduced depression and anxiety, only concreteness training reduced the negative thinking typically found in depression.
Moreover, for those participants who practised it enough to ensure it became a habit, CNT reduced symptoms of depression more than relaxation training.
"This is the first demonstration that just targeting thinking style can be an effective means of tackling depression," said Professor Edward Watkins of the University of Exeter.