Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 557–564 | Cite as

Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions Increases Goal-Attainment in Individuals with Mild to Moderate Depression

  • Anja Fritzsche
  • Björn Schlier
  • Gabriele Oettingen
  • Tania M. Lincoln
Original Article


Depression is associated with difficulties initiating and performing goal-directed behavior. In healthy participants, the self-regulation strategy of mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) has been demonstrated to facilitate goal-directed behavior. We investigated whether people with depression benefit from using MCII in attaining their goals and whether MCII attenuates symptoms of depression. Forty-seven participants with depression were randomly assigned to a MCII-condition or a waiting-control-condition. Participants in the MCII-condition performed MCII on one depression-relevant goal (e.g. social/physical activities). Goal-attainment, changes in depression, and in self-efficacy expectations after 3 weeks were measured. Significantly more participants in the MCII-condition (78.6 %) than in the waiting-control-condition (31.6 %) attained their goal. We found no significant between-group effects on depression or self-efficacy, but there was a medium pre-to-post reduction in depression in the MCII-condition and only a small effect in the control-condition. MCII is a useful strategy to facilitate goal-pursuit in depression and may be a useful adjunct to interventions aimed at behavioral activation.


Depression Self-regulation Activity-related goals Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) 



We thank all participants who took part in our study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Anja Fritzsche, Björn Schlier, Gabriele Oettingen, and Tania Lincoln declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the national research committee (approved by the ethical review committee of the Psychotherapeutenkammer Hamburg.) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual subjects participating in the study.

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

  • Anja Fritzsche
    • 1
  • Björn Schlier
    • 1
  • Gabriele Oettingen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tania M. Lincoln
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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