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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

We thank all participants who took part in our study.

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Correspondence to Björn Schlier.

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

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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.

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Anja Fritzsche and Björn Schlier have contributed equally to this article.

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Fritzsche, A., Schlier, B., Oettingen, G. et al. Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions Increases Goal-Attainment in Individuals with Mild to Moderate Depression. Cogn Ther Res 40, 557–564 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-015-9749-6

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Keywords

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