This week’s assigned readings included chapter 5 in Applied Social Psychology, Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems, by Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts. After reading the assigned chapter called “Applying Social Psychology to Clinical and Counseling Psychology”, I became interested in Abramson, Metalky, and Alloy’s hopelessness theory of depression. Specifically, I wanted to understand the hopelessness theory of depression, what could cause hopelessness depression, and what kind of treatment could be affective for a person with hopelessness depression.
The hopelessness theory of depression states that depressive symptoms are most likely to occur when a vulnerable person experiences negative environmental circumstances (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). This being said, it is important to note that the hopelessness theory of depression specifies that these two factors (vulnerability and negative environmental circumstance) occur simultaneously (Schneider et al., 2012). Schneider et al. (2012) state that a person is deemed vulnerable if they interpret the cause of negative events as something that cannot be changed (stable attribution) and affecting their whole life (global attribution), otherwise known as the pessimistic explanatory style. According to Schneider et al. (2012), a person with these specific traits could be described as having a specific type of depression, called hopelessness depression.
Just while reading the definition of the hopelessness theory of depression it became clear to me that a cause of hopelessness depression could be cognitive distortions, which are defined as thinking errors that are negatively bias that can increase one’s vulnerability to depression (Rnic, Dozois, & Martin, 2016). I am under the impression that someone with hopelessness depression suffers from the following cognitive distortions:
- All-or-nothing thinking: “If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure” (Burns, 1989)
- Over generalization: “You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat” (Burns, 1989)
- Mental filter: “You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened” (Burns, 1989)
- Discounting the positive: “If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well” (Burns, 1989)
- Jumping to conclusions: “You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion” (Burns, 1989)
- Magnification: “You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities” (Burns, 1989)
Hopelessness depression seems, well…hopeless, doesn’t it? Is it hopeless to think a person with hopelessness depression could find relief? My answer is no, it is not hopeless. Fixing cognitive distortions like the ones I listed above is a key to treating hopelessness depression. But how does one change distorted thinking? My answer: Cognitive behavioral therapy, which the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists defines as a therapy that stresses the importance of thinking about what we do and how we feel (“What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy”, 2016).
With the application of the hopelessness theory of depression, a counseling psychologist could practice cognitive behavioral therapy with a patient who has hopelessness depression stemming from cognitive distortions. A counseling psychologist could help their patient recognize their patterns of distorted thinking (vulnerabilities, per the hopelessness theory of depression), show them how they are not valid, and how to work through them when they come up. A counseling psychologist could also help their patient look at a specific negative event (a factor of the hopelessness theory of depression) in a healthy, realistic way.
Through my interest of the hopelessness theory of depression, I not only learned what the hopelessness theory of depression entails, but what could cause hopelessness depression, and what kind of treatment could be affective for a person with hopelessness depression. The hopelessness theory of depression relies on the idea that together, vulnerability and negative environmental circumstances can lead to hopelessness depression. From my research, I am under the impression that cognitive distortions are a cause of hopelessness depression but can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy. Simply stated, hopelessness depression is not hopeless.
Burns, David. (1989). Patterns of Cognitive Distortions. Retrieved from: http://www.pacwrc.pitt.edu/curriculum/313_MngngImpctTrmtcStrssChldWlfrPrfssnl/hnd
Rnic, K., Dozois, D. J., & Martin, R. A. (2016). Cognitive Distortions, Humor Styles, and Depression. Europe’s journal of psychology, 12(3), 348-62. doi:10.5964/ejop.v12i3.1118
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied Social Psychology. Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. (2016). Retrieved from: http://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt-htm/