Cognitive Causal Model of Depression

     The cognitive causal model of depression is the model with the most empirical evidence in treating depression. According to this model, it is one's cognitions - thoughts and beliefs- that shape one's behaviors and emotions. The most prominent proponent of the cognitive model of depression is Aaron Beck. He proposed that depressive symptoms result when people's attributions for external
events are based on maladaptive beliefs and attitudes (Persons, Davison, Tompkins). The cognitive model of depression has provided ample scientific evidence to base its assumptions that maladaptive cognitions precede and cause disorders. Beck (1967) has found evidence that "deviation from logical and realistic thinking was found at every level of depression from mild neurotic to severe psychotic" (p. 240). Some typical themes are found in the ideation of depressed patients that differ significantly from that of non-depressed individuals. Themes of low self-evaluation, ideas of deprivation, exaggeration of problems and difficulties, self-criticism, self-commands, and wishes to escape or die are commonly found among a depressed population.

    The cognitive model of depression assumes three specific concepts a) the cognitive triad -negative view of self, the world, and the future, b) schemas -pattern of maladaptive thoughts and beliefs, and c) cognitive errors -faulty thinking accompanied by negative and unrealistic representations of reality (Beck, 1967; Beck et al., 1979). The role of cognitive processing in emotion and behavior is a paramount factor in determining how an individual perceives, interprets, and assigns meaning to an event. According to the cognitive model, psychological distress is influenced by a number of factors, including one's biological and genetic makeup, learning history and social influences. Individual predispositions are also dependent on his/her personality because such is shaped by schemas, cognitive structure and developmentally acquired assumptions.

Cognitive Triad
    The cognitive triad is identified as a pattern of reportable depressive thoughts that consist of :
Negative view of self (perceived as deficient, inadequate, or unworthy);
Negative view of the world (interactions with the environment are perceived as representing defeat or deprivation)
Negative view of the future (current difficulties or suffering will continue indefinitely).

Schemas
    Schemas are adaptive or maladaptive beliefs and attitudes that become active during life stressors and external environmental circumstances. In other words, it is how we interpret the world around us and how we assign positive and negative meaning to whatever happens to us. Beck and Weishaar (1989) believe that in order to treat depression, clients need to treat their maladaptive interpretations and conclusions as testable hypotheses. The role of the therapist in a cognitive-behavioral intervention is to help the clients examine alternative interpretations and to produce contradictory evidence that support more adaptive patterns. According to the cognitive theory of depression proposed by Beck, "the behavioral consequences of psychopathology will depend on the content of cognitive structuring."  This relationship between therapist and client can be called collaborative empiricism because it involves a collaborative enterprise between therapist and clients in order to produce therapeutic change  (Beck & Weishaar, 1989, p.293).

    In a nutshell, cognitive theories assume that people's attributions for events, their perceptions of control and self-efficacy, and their beliefs about themselves and the world influence their behaviors and emotions when reacting to a situation. In general, an individual with various maladaptive beliefs and attitudes becomes more vulnerable to depression because of his or her generalized negative belief pattern. This generalized negative belief pattern is known in Cognitive Theory as the Mode . Clark and Beck (1999) stated that this 'mode' that defines depression is characterized by cognitive-conceptual schemas, affective schemas, physiological schemas, motivational schemas, and behavioral schemas. In other words, generalized negative beliefs and attitudes tend to take over one's life because it is incorporated in a variety of situations and explanations to internal and external events.
 

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