Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps Overcome Winter Blues

It may be more effective than light therapy at treating seasonal affective disorder
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with seasonal affective disorder who undergo a one-year course of cognitive behavioral therapy, either on its own or in combination with light therapy, are less likely to have a recurrence of winter depression than their counterparts who undergo light therapy alone, according to a study in the September issue of Behavior Therapy.

Kelly J. Rohan, Ph.D., of the University of Vermont in Burlington, and colleagues conducted a study of 69 participants with seasonal affective disorder who were randomized to receive cognitive behavioral therapy, light therapy, or a combination of both treatments, of whom 52 completed the treatment.

Whereas there was a recurrence of winter depression in 36.7 percent of the light therapy group, this occurred in only 7.0 percent of the cognitive behavioral therapy group and 5.5 percent of the combination group, the researchers found. Depression severity at the one-year mark was also lower in the cognitive behavioral therapy group but not in the combination treatment group,

"Cognitive restructuring of maladaptive thoughts about light therapy, stimulus control techniques, and motivational interviewing are potentially helpful ways to increase compliance that could be empirically tested in future studies," the authors write. "If these findings are replicated, cognitive behavioral therapy could represent a more effective, practical, and palatable approach to long-term seasonal affective disorder management than light therapy."

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