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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - Depression (CBT-D)

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression (CBT-D) is an effective treatment for Veterans with depression in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. CBT-D is a highly recommended treatment for many individuals with depression.

CBT-D is a short-term psychotherapy (or “talk therapy”) for treating symptoms of depression which may include:

  • Feeling sad, depressed or hopeless
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Feeling worthless or having excessive guilt
  • Being irritable or agitated
  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Increase or decrease in appetite or sleep

The overall goal of CBT-D is to improve the symptoms of depression by helping you to develop more balanced and helpful thoughts about yourself, others, and the future and by helping you spend more time engaging in pleasurable or productive activities. CBT-D helps Veterans to achieve personal goals and solve problems by learning and practicing new skills. CBT-D can help to improve the quality of your life and overall level of functioning.

CBT-D is one of the most studied and effective therapies developed for depression. CBT-D is based on decades of research and has been shown to be very effective with Veterans, specifically. Over 75% of people treated for depression show noticeable improvement following CBT-D. This treatment is at least as effective as medications, though both CBT and medications can be helpful in the treatment of depression for some people. Many Veterans with a history of depression continue to enjoy treatment benefits long after completing CBT-D.

In CBT-D, you will work with your therapist to set specific treatment goals that will help you learn new ways of thinking about situations and coping with problems that come up in the future, even after therapy has ended. These new skills will relieve your depression and help you move forward in your life.

After you and your therapist have discussed your treatment goals, your therapist may be able to estimate the amount of time that will be required to attain those goals. CBT typically requires 12 to 16 sessions to lead to significant improvement. Sessions last about 50 to 60 minutes when delivered individually and 90 minutes when delivered in a group. You will meet with your therapist regularly until the treatment goals have been reached.

If you decide to participate in CBT, you will be asked to:

  • Attend sessions regularly
  • Work together with your therapist to set therapy goals
  • Address the most important issues during each session
  • Practice the new CBT skills in your life outside of session

It will be important for you to use the information that you learn during the therapy sessions and apply it to your everyday life to help you feel better.

*This treatment may not be available at every VHA point of care. Please check with your VA provider.

Links & Resources

  • CBT-D client brochure
  • Greenberger, D. & Padesky, C. (1995). Mind over mood: Change how you feel by changing the way you think. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Burns, D.D. (1999). The feeling good handbook. New York, NY: Plume.
  • Gilbert, P. (2009). Overcoming depression. London, UK: Constable & Robinson Ltd.
  • Addis, M. & Martell, C. (2004). Overcoming depression one step at a time. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publishers.
  • Lewinsohn, P.M., Muñoz, R.F., Youngren, M.A., Zeiss, A.M. (1992). Controlling your depression. New York, NY: Fireside.
  • Knaus, W.J. & Ellis, A. (2006). The cognitive behavioral workbook for depression: A step-by-step program. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publishers.
  • National Mental Health Clients’ Self-Help Clearinghouse: www.mhselfhelp.org/
  • American Psychological Association Help Center: www.apa.org/helpcenter/

Return to VA Mental Health Services Information page on Depression

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