A new form of talk therapy for depression—Augmented Depression Therapy (ADepT)—is showing promise. A recent pilot study by researchers at University of Exeter found that it may be more efficient and cost-effective compared with traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). ­Bottom Line Personal asked psychologist Barnaby D. Dunn, PhD, who led the development of ADepT, how it works…

There are two sides to the depression coin—experiencing heightened negative emotions such as sadness and fear…and experiencing reduced positive emotions such as happiness. Classic CBT does a good job of reducing negative emotions but doesn’t do much to build positive emotions. We know that reduced positivity predicts that people will stay depressed for longer and are more likely to become depressed again in the future.

ADepT is an enhanced talk therapy for depression that simultaneously reduces negativity and builds ­positivity. It was developed by following a co-design process with clinicians and people suffering from depression, integrating elements from effective existing therapies, and determining and then targeting psychological mechanisms driving negative and positive emotions in depression.

How ADepT works: During therapy, the patient establishes what’s important to him/her in work, relationships, hobbies and self-care…sets behavioral goals consistent with these values…and breaks these goals down into action steps. He also develops a well-being plan to continue to move toward positive recovery. The intention is for patients to consolidate skills they have learned and build a habit of maintaining and tracking progress toward their valued goals.

Study details: Participants in the pilot study received 15 weekly ADepT sessions followed by five booster sessions flexibly scheduled during the year after treatment to help them keep making well-being gains and troubleshoot any difficulties. ADepT did well treating anhedonia (loss of interest and pleasure), a hallmark feature of depression for many. Result: While ADepT costs the same as CBT, it led to bigger quality-of-life gains by helping people reconnect to valued and pleasurable activities and identify and act opposite to behavior that can stop these activities.

Next steps: ADepT has been designed so that CBT therapists will require minimal additional training, and an ADepT treatment manual is currently being written. It is not yet available in the US, but a few academic therapy centers are interested in evaluating it.

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