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"Sad is How I Am!" Treating Dysthymia in Children and Adults
Dysthymia continuing education counselor CEUs

Section 17
Effect of Mind-Wandering on Depression

CEU Question 17 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Depression
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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The previous track discussed the technique of creating pain-free time to use with a depressed client.

As you know, your client's mood state is a matter of their perception of events that have occurred to them. For Ed, who wrote plays for his community theater, having thoughts of pleasant events in his mind affected his depression in two different ways.

Two Ways Ed's Depression Afffected his Mind
--1. As with meditation, work, and exercise, thinking about happy events substituted for the negative self-comparisons that caused him to be depressed. For example, if the audience laughed louder at the play he wrote or clapped more, Ed would feel better.
--2. Thinking about happy events, getting positive feelings from memories and positive feelings from expectations of future events, is just as important as the happy events themselves. As Dostoyevsky remarked, "One really good memory will go a long way - if you make good use of it."

Do you agree that it is a characteristic of depressives to dwell on self-comparisons, and not dwell upon memories of past pleasures and expectations of future pleasures? I explained to Ed that this is a tendency that can be changed if he works hard at changing. Ed can change if he will allow himself to, and practice it regularly.

I told Ed the story of a corporate executive, Rolland G., who always had his mind on productive thoughts about his job. For example, Rolland would think about who he had to instruct to do what. He would think about what he had to remember to check before sending out his products, the job evaluation forms he had to fill out for his assistant, and so on. Rolland G. felt that he ought to be taking advantage of spare moments to get more done, and he constantly did so - except when negative self-evaluations flooded his mood and made him sad, which was often.

Then, Rolland came to realize that it was not necessary to be perfect. Pleasurable thoughts, such as spending five minutes alone or with his wife, reminiscing about the great times he had had with his children, and thinking about upcoming events such as his daughter's dance recital, pushed out negative self comparisons.

I asked Ed, "How can you get yourself to spend more time remembering and expecting those happy events that are in everyone's life?" I explained to Ed, "By working at it and teaching yourself this habit, that's one way you can train yourself. When you start to ruminate over your audience's poor reaction, shift your thoughts to the reactions that were better, and stay in those happy times for a few minutes before moving on to other thoughts."

Causes of Distortion
Why should some people's interpretations of their present conditions and life experiences be inaccurate or distorted in such manner that depression is brought on?

Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck explain most depression as due to poor thinking and distorted interpretations of present reality, and they analyze the present operation of the mechanism without delving into the past causes of such bad thinking. They believe that just as a student can be taught to do valid social-science in a university, and just as a child in school can improve his or her information-gathering and reasoning with guided practice, so can depressives be taught better information-gathering and processing by education in the course of psychotherapy.

Indeed, it is reasonable that if your client views their situation in the light of a biased sample of experience, an incorrect "statistical" analysis of their life's data, an unsound definition of the situation, they are likely to misinterpret their reality. For example, anthropologist Molly H. was often depressed for long periods of time whenever one of her professional papers was rejected by a professional journal. She ignored all of her acceptances and successes and focused only on the present rejection, just as Ed did with the audience's reaction to his plays. Cognitive therapy trained Molly to consider a wider sample of her life experience after such a rejection and, hence, reduced her sadness and shortened her depressed periods.

A crucial issue in depression is whether your client interprets contemporary events in their lives accurately, or instead distorts them in such a manner as to make them seem more negative than they really are. In this case, your clients are only taking in negatively-perceived events.

The choice of whom to compare themselves with is one of the important ways that your depressive clients structure their view of life. Some of these choices lead to frequent negative comparisons and consequent unhappiness.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Dutt, A. J., Wahl, H.-W., & Rupprecht, F. S. (2018). Mindful vs. mind full: Processing strategies moderate the association between subjective aging experiences and depressive symptoms. Psychology and Aging, 33(4), 630–642. 

Greenberg, J., Datta, T., Shapero, B. G., Sevinc, G., Mischoulon, D., & Lazar, S. W. (2018). Compassionate hearts protect against wandering minds: Self-compassion moderates the effect of mind-wandering on depression. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 5(3), 155–169. 

Seli, P., Beaty, R. E., Marty-Dugas, J., & Smilek, D. (2019). Depression, anxiety, and stress and the distinction between intentional and unintentional mind wandering. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(2), 163–170. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 17
What can be more important than you client's mood, which is created by their perception of events?
To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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