Training in 'concrete thinking' can be self-help treatment for depression

November 18, 2011, University of Exeter

The study suggests an innovative psychological treatment called 'concreteness training' can reduce depression in just two months and could work as a self-help therapy for depression in primary care. Led by the University of Exeter and funded by the Medical Research Council, the research shows how this new treatment could help some of the 3.5 million people in the UK living with depression.

People suffering from have a tendency towards unhelpful abstract thinking and over-general , 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 . This study provided the first formal test of this treatment for depression in the NHS.

121 individuals who were currently experiencing an episode of depression were recruited from GP practices. They took part in the clinical trial and 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. All participants were assessed by the research team after two months and then three and six months later to see what progress they had made.

The CNT involved the participants undertaking a daily in which they focused on a recent event that they had found mildly to moderately upsetting. They did this initially with a therapist and then alone using an audio CD that provided guided instructions. They worked through standardised steps and a series of exercises to focus on the specific details of that event and to identify how they might have influenced the outcome.

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 .

Professor Edward Watkins of the University of Exeter said: "This is the first demonstration that just targeting thinking style can be an effective means of tackling depression. Concreteness training can be delivered with minimal face-to-face contact with a therapist and training could be accessed online, through CDs or through smartphone apps. This has the advantage of making it a relatively cheap form of treatment that could be accessed by large numbers of people. This is a major priority in depression treatment and research, because of the high prevalence and global burden of depression, for which we need widely available cost-effective interventions."

The researchers are now calling for larger effectiveness so that the feasibility of CNT as part of the NHS's treatment for depression can be assessed.

More information: The study was ublished in the journal Psychological Medicine

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.