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A Comparative Study on the Efficacy of a Positive Psychology Intervention and a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Clinical Depression

Abstract

Traditionally, treatments for depression have been primarily focused on reducing patients’ symptoms or deficits and less concerned with building positive resources. This study aims to compare the efficacy of a manualized protocol of empirically-validated positive psychology interventions (PPI) with a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) protocol. This controlled clinical trial included 96 adult women with a DSM-IV diagnosis of major depression or dysthymia. Participants were blindly allocated to a 10-session PPI (n = 47) or CBT (n = 49) group therapy condition. Intention to treat analysis showed that both interventions were effective in reducing clinical symptoms and increasing well-being. There were no significant differences between groups in either main outcomes (i.e., severity of depressive symptoms and clinical diagnosis) or secondary outcomes (e.g., positive and negative affect, and satisfaction with life). Even within the most severely depressed participants, no differences between PPI and CBT emerged. If further clinical studies confirm these results, this would widen treatment choice for both patients and professionals.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. To control for pre-post differences in the dependent variables, a series of ANCOVAS using the pre-intervention scores as covariates, was conducted. All analyses yielded nonsignificant differences between both groups of intervention with the exception of rumination as measured by the RRS (p = .049). This only difference also disappeared when the p value was adjusted for multiple comparisons.

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Acknowledgments

This work was partially supported by a grant from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (PSI2012-35500), the PROMOSAM excellence network (PSI2014-56303-REDT) and by a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (FPU12/02342). We would like to thank Loreto de la Carrera for her continuous support of the study, and to Trinidad Soria, Pablo Roca, Natalia Poyato, Silvia Moreno, Laura Machado, Alina Rigabert, Marta Fernandez-Salineros, Nerea Barrachina, Victoria Guillen, and Ariadna de la Vega for their collaboration at different stages of this research. Special thanks to Jessica Carney and Matthew P. Abrams for editing this manuscript and to Linda Bolier and Barnaby Dunn for their thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Carmelo Vazquez.

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Covadonga Chaves, Irene Lopez-Gomez, Gonzalo Hervas and Carmelo Vazquez declare 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 institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Covadonga Chaves and Irene Lopez-Gomez have contributed equally to this work.

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Chaves, C., Lopez-Gomez, I., Hervas, G. et al. A Comparative Study on the Efficacy of a Positive Psychology Intervention and a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Clinical Depression. Cogn Ther Res 41, 417–433 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-016-9778-9

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Keywords

  • Positive psychology
  • Positive interventions
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Major depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Well-being