Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 1–15 | Cite as

Treatment of Depression from a Self-Regulation Perspective: Basic Concepts and Applied Strategies in Self-System Therapy

Original Article


Self-regulation models of psychopathology provide a theory-based, empirically supported framework for developing psychotherapeutic interventions that complement and extend current cognitive-behavioral models. However, many clinicians are only minimally familiar with the psychology of self-regulation. The aim of the present manuscript is twofold. First, we provide an overview of self-regulation as a motivational process essential to well-being and introduce two related theories of self-regulation which have been applied to depression. Second, we describe how self-regulatory concepts and processes from those two theories have been translated into psychosocial interventions, focusing specifically on self-system therapy (SST), a brief structured treatment for depression that targets personal goal pursuit. Two randomized controlled trials have shown that SST is superior to cognitive therapy for depressed clients with specific self-regulatory deficits, and both studies found evidence that SST works in part by restoring adaptive self-regulation. Self-regulation-based psychotherapeutic approaches to depression hold significant promise for enhancing treatment efficacy and ultimately may provide an individualizable framework for treatment planning.


Depression Comorbidity Anxiety Regulatory focus theory Self-discrepancy theory Self-regulation Self-system therapy 



Research presented in this manuscript was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant Numbers DA031579 and DA023026) and by the National Institute for Mental Health (Grant Numbers MH052281, MH067447, MH090414).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Timothy J. Strauman and Kari M. Eddington each declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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