Feature Archive

Do Your Thoughts Drag You Down?

Cognitive therapists say yes. Are they onto something?

WebMD Feature

May 22, 2000 -- Dawn H. is a successful banker who got hit with four downsizings in the last six years. Although she found a new position each time, the repeated stress soon undermined her confidence and sent her spiraling into depression. "I was a vice president and making a good salary, yet all I saw was that I was going to be out of a job," she says.

Dawn had been in counseling for years, but this time her therapist couldn't seem to help. Eventually, she grew so depressed she was admitted to a hospital. It could have been the worst of times, but it turned out to be the best. A staff member suggested Dawn try cognitive therapy, a form of short-term treatment that helps patients analyze their own thoughts, rather than rely on therapists for months, even decades.

"Finally," Dawn says, "someone gave me some practical tools."

Quick, Inexpensive Treatment

Cognitive therapy has become the fastest growing, most extensively studied form of therapy in the United States -- the new century's treatment of choice for everything from depression to substance abuse. Pick up a health magazine or turn on the radio, and you'll likely hear about some new study in which cognitive therapy helped patients just as well -- or even better -- than drugs did. Even the insurance companies love this "therapy du jour," for an understandable reason: It usually takes just 10 or 12 sessions to see results, at a cost of about $1,500 -- peanuts compared to the cost of long-term psychotherapy.