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Cognitive model of depression


The cognitive model of depression is the model with the most empirical evidence in treating depression. This model states that one’s cognitions, thoughts and beliefs, which determine behavior and emotion. Aaron Beck is the name most associated with the cognitive causal model of depression. He wrote that depressive symptoms result when people attribute the cause of external events as based on maladaptive beliefs and attitudes. The model provides evidence that maladaptive cognitions precede and cause disorders. Beck found that “deviation from logical and realistic thinking was found at every level of depression from mild neurotic to severe psychotic.” He also identified typical themes within the depressed community which included low self-esteem, ideas of deprivation, exaggeration of problems, self critical thinking, wishes to escape, die or reinvent.

The cognitive model of depression has three principles: first, the cognitive triad which includes a negative view of the self, the world and the future; second, schemas which are patterns of maladaptive thoughts and beliefs; and, third, cognitive errors which are faulty thinking accompanied by negative and unrealistic perception of reality.

The triad is self-explanatory. The schemas are the way we interpret the world around us and how we assign meaning to whatever happens to us. Beck believed that to treat depression, clients needed to also treat their maladaptive conclusions. The role of a therapist therefore is one of challenging the schema and proposing alternative, more positive interpretations of events.

Cognitive theories assume that people’s attributions for events, their perceptions of control and self-efficacy, and their beliefs about themselves and the world influence their behaviors and emotions. A person is vulnerable to depression if they are negative in their thoughts and perceptions. Cognitive theory suggests that this can be changed with self determination and therapeutic intervention.

Source: Gustavo Araujo

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