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About Mental Health

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NATURE: Vol. 515

A CHANGE OF MIND Cognitive behavioural therapy is the best-studied form of psychotherapy. But researchers are still struggling to understand why it works. 

By EMILY ANTHES
November 13, 2014

Anna’s life began to unravel in 2005 when her husband of 30 years announced that he had fallen in love with another woman. “It had never even occurred to me that my marriage could ever end,” recalls Anna, a retired lawyer then living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “It was pretty shocking.”

Over the course of several months, Anna stopped wanting to get up in the morning. She felt tired all the time, and consumed by negative thoughts. “‘I’m worthless.’ ‘I messed up everything.’ ‘It’s all my fault.’” She needed help, but her first therapist bored her and antidepressants only made her more tired. Then she found Cory Newman, director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, who started her on a different kind of therapy. Anna learned how to obsess less over her setbacks and give herself more credit for her triumphs. “It was so helpful to talk to someone who steered me to more positive ways of thinking,” says Anna, whose name has been changed at her request. Cognitive therapy, commonly known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), aims to help people to identify and change negative, selfdestructive thought patterns. And although it does not work for everyone with depression, data have b
een accumulating in its favour. “CBT is one of the clear success stories in psychotherapy,” says Stefan Hofmann, a psychologist at Boston University in Massachusetts. Read More