If you are feeling depressed – ACT can help
By Peter Gillogley
In this article you will find answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Depression based on some recent research. Questions address by this article include:
How common is depression?
What evidence-based treatments are there for depression?
Will my depression ever get better?
How does rumination cause depression?
Treatment for rumination
Where can I get help for depression?
How can I get help for depression?
You are not alone, actually depression is pretty common. According to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, around half of Australians experience a psychological problem in their lifetime, with about one-in-five people experiencing a common psychological problem in the last 12 months. More than one-in-twenty Australians experienced a clinically significant disturbance in emotions or feelings, such as depression in the previous 12 months. That’s a lot of people, some of which may be experiencing trouble sleeping, appetite changes, libido changes, or difficult feelings such as despair, melancholy, misery, sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, unmotivated, and low energy.
Fortunately, recent research is telling us that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy might help. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a modern form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), that teaches specific, structured evidence-based skills to help you better manage difficult thoughts and feelings, so they are less an obstacle to you living a life that is guided by who and what is important to you.
ACT is an evidence-based approach for psychological problems, with an impressive research base of over 200 Randomised Control Trials supporting the effectiveness of ACT. ACT helps depressed people, as effectively or better than other established psychological treatments.
It is common for people experiencing depression to feel like things will never change, or that any gains made during therapy in managing difficult thoughts and feelings will “wear off”. Recent research is much more optimistic. In one Finnish study, over two-thirds of depressed participants who received ACT treatment, no longer met diagnostic criteria for depression. And the gains made during ACT therapy are still detectible 3 years later. A similar study found gains made during ACT treatment were still detectible 5 years later.
Sometimes, reflecting on past experiences can be a useful way of learning and becoming wiser. However, if there is a gap between what we have and what we want, our problem-solving minds can try to be helpful by trying to figure out what went wrong, or what we need to do next. This might work more often, if figuring out what to do with difficult thoughts and feelings was as easy as every-day challenges in the physical world, like finding your missing socks. When our problem-solving minds don’t achieve immediate success, they often turn the intensity dial even higher, screen out distracting experiences from the outside world (that might hold useful information), so your mind can focus on what is happening inside your head. So, despite your mind trying to be helpful, this pattern of thinking can turn into unhelpful brooding. A consistent finding of resent research is that repetitive negative thinking (rumination) prolongs and deepens sad and depressed mood.
ACT is sensitive to the rumination behaviour and provides a vantage point to notice what is happening and provide more flexible ways of responding when difficult thoughts and feelings arise and you find yourself brooding or ruminating over and over again. Notice that ACT is not trying to change your negative thoughts (although your thoughts might change) or make them go away. When you notice yourself hooked by a particular thought, ACT teaches you how to unhook from that thought and focus more of your energy on living a meaningful life, rather than struggling with your thoughts. One recent study showed that even a brief two-session ACT intervention can help unhook from difficult thoughts and increase valued living.
In summary, depression is common, and ACT can help you live a more vital life.
Where can I get help for depression?
Therapists at the Brisbane ACT Centre are trained in evidence-based treatments for depression, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for depression.
Peter is a warm, experienced Psychologist with over 20 years counselling experience. Curious, non-judgemental and welcoming, Peter seeks to work collaboratively with clients, building on individual strengths to help create a rich, full and meaningful life.
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