Positive Therapy, Positive Outcomes

Depressive symptoms and patient well being improved with positive therapy techniques

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) A positive outlook doesn’t always come naturally. With the right tools, therapists can help patients feel better by helping them see things in a positive light.

In a recent review, researchers looked at multiple studies that used positive psychological techniques to treat depression and anxiety.

The researchers found that techniques like positive thinking and setting personal goals improved patients’ sense of well-being and reduced depressive symptoms.

"Talk to your therapist about positive therapy techniques."

Linda Bolier, PhD, from the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and fellow scientists looked at studies that used positive techniques in mental health treatments.

For this large-scale study, researchers searched multiple medical databases for studies involving positive psychological intervention techniques for mental health treatments from 1998 to 2012. The analysis included a total of 40 articles describing 39 studies with 6,139 participants.

Most of the studies focused on treating depression and anxiety. Positive psychological interventions are treatment tools developed to focus on positive thoughts and actions to enhance well-being and reduce depressive and anxiety symptoms.

The following are examples of the positive psychological interventions taught to patients:

  • Having patients list the positive things in their lives
  • Practicing acts of kindness towards others
  • Setting personal goals
  • Expressing thankfulness
  • Developing and using personal strengths

Each study in this review assessed patients’ overall well-being, psychological well-being and depressive symptoms at the start of the study and again between three to 12 months after the positive psychological intervention treatments.

Based on a 0-2.4 point scale, the positive psychological interventions increased patients’ overall well-being by 0.34 points, psychological well-being by 0.20 point and reduced depressive symptoms by 0.23 points.

These improvements were still present in some of the patients during follow-ups three to six months later.

The authors found that the more intensive and longer-term studies had greater impacts on participants' well-being and depressive symptoms. But they noted that results from the short-term, self-help Internet interventions were good.

The authors recommended that the use of short-term, self-help Internet interventions could help improve public health through accessible mental health services. Although, getting patients to stick with the shorter Internet interventions may be tough.

“Personalizing and tailoring self-help interventions to individual needs as well as interactive support might contribute to increased adherence and likewise improved effectiveness of Internet self-help interventions,” the authors concluded.

This study was published in February in BMC Public Health.

This research received no outside funding. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 19, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013