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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Martin Seligman, the inspiration behind the positive psychology movement, identified 3 thought styles that are intimately connected to how susceptible one is to depression.

These are personalization, permanence and pervasiveness.

I recently put together this little video clip about personalization.  Hope it’s helpful.

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It is easy to lose focus in therapy.   Therapy can become a meandering journey, a bit of a boat adrift in the sea of life struggles — tossed and turned with each new week.

Or therapy can set a clear destination – a goal, a distant shore towards which each session in it’s own way is heading you closer.

There are several ways I like to help my clients (and me!) make sure we all know where the boat is headed and that the course we are charting will take us towards that destination.

1.  Early in treatment articulate a clear goal.  Sometimes this will be a vision of what “better” might look like.  For other people a laundry list of concerns that will be resolved.  In other situations it may be relief from symptoms like depression, anxiety or marital tension.  Every so often is a new skill set– parenting skills, marriage skills, boss-management skills.

2.  I review this goal before each session to make sure that the course I am charting is heading us towards our destination.

3.  I often encourage clients to pursue treatment in blocks of about 5 sessions.  Move towards the goal for a handful (or handful plus) of sessions, then re-group.  Sometimes the re-group is a pause in treatment.  Sometimes it is just a few moments in a session to look at where we’ve been and where we are going.

I find being clear about the destination to be particularly important to keep right at the fore when working with people who come to therapy with a broad range of things that just aren’t working in their lives and/or longstanding history of depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges.  There can be so many directions to explore, so many different ports that one might go calling in.  However, by visiting them all, one risks losing momentum.  Better, I think to pick a destination, sail to it, savor it.

And then one can always pick a new port to go calling next!

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While feeling happy and having strong, satisfying relationships likely won’t prevent one from becoming ill, there are clear indications that both of these can be potent tools in the recovery toolbox.

Here’s the a non-physician’s summary of the emerging literature.

Finding 1:  Immune system functioning is compromised by depression. Basically, depression appears to both slow down immune responses and increase the production of proteins which increase inflammation.  Both of these make healing from a wide-variety of injuries and illnesses longer and slower.    Click here for the technical details.

Finding 2:  Marital stress and fighting is bad for health and healing. Two striking studies on this front.  The first demonstrates that women in high-tension marriages evidenced slower recovery from breast cancer and showed more symptoms of illness than those in good marriages.   Here’s a nice Washington Post summary of the study. The second study looked directly at the impact of marital conflict on healing.  Again, more conflict, less healing.   New York Times columnist Tara Parker Pope has an excellent review here.

So, while an apple-a-day may have it’s benefits, noticing marital strife and depression, especially in the context of a physical illness or ailment, and then getting help to improve the marriage or lift the depression,  can be a potent tool for enhancing recovery.

And hey, what’s the worst that can happen?  One might end up happy with a great marriage!

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