Cognitive therapy was developed by Aaron Beck in the 1970s. It grew from empirical and theoretical work undertaken in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. To use Aaron Becks words:
"Cognitive therapy... is based on an underlying theoretical rationale that an individuals affect and behaviour are largely determined by the way in which he structures the world".(Beck, A, Rush, JA, Shaw, BF, Emery, G 1979 Cognitive Therapy of Depression)
Cognitive therapy programs train people to replace maladaptive cognitive styles with helpful thinking patterns and increase behavioral coping skills.
There is extensive evidence that cognitive therapy, or cognitive behavior therapy is an effective treatment of mild to moderate depression. It is also known that reading books about CBT (bibliotherapy) and computerised-CBT are effective treatments for mild and moderate depression (Jamison & Scogin, 1995; Selmi, Klein & Greist et al., 1990; Osgood-Hynes, Greist & Marks et al., 1998) Its efficacy in treating depressive disorders in adults and adolescents is well established (Depression Guideline Panel, 1993; NHMRC, 1997).
What Is MoodGym?
MoodGYM is an interactive web program designed to prevent and decrease depressive symptoms. It was designed for young people but is helpful for people of all ages.
This project was developed by the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University and they have made it available free to the general public.
MoodGYM consists of five modules, an interactive game, anxiety and depression assessments, downloadable relaxation audio file, a workbook and feedback assessment. This is a sophisticated program that will take one to two weeks to complete .
Can a website really act as a personal therapist?
I've started a new kind of workout recently... This is made possible by MoodGYM, an interactive website with the goal to "help identify and overcome emotional problems," and "develop good coping skills." But does it really? Can a website really act as a personal therapist?
A study done in Australia by Helen Christensen and her colleagues shows that it really works. She studied 525 people aged 18 and older who tried different online strategies to improve their moods. The 182 who visited MoodGYM tended to reduce "dysfunctional thinking," and symptoms of depression. It was shown to be more effective than a website that just explained depression and included useful information.
Could this really work? I set out to investigate several weeks ago.
At the beginning, MoodGYM appears to preach in sickeningly optimistic generalities, like the typical self-help book, offering brief surveys and a range of characters that illustrate certain personality types. The user can then look at mantras and thought processes of each character and hopefully be able to relate to at least one of them. Once the user can relate to a character, they should ideally begin to acquire some perspective over the sad feelings they've been experiencing.
This may sound cheesy, but MoodGYM seems to embrace cheesiness and humor as mechanisms for users to not take themselves so seriously, which is refreshing. A good example is the "warpy thoughts" exercise, which examines the user's tendency to interpret situations negatively, and how to turn that around. Warpy thoughts include the self-explanatory "disqualifying the positive" and "jumping to conclusions," terms we hear thrown around but often fail to apply to our own daily behavior.
After the warpy thoughts are identified, MoodGYM begins to attack self-esteem issues by allowing the user to practice "talking to [him or her]self like a friend would" and "increasing positive self-interpretations." The "What you think is what you feel" module encourages the user to tackle their own negative thoughts and take control of their direction. For example, what if you talk to someone and make one misinformed remark? You might focus on your blunder and assume you made a fool of yourself, when in reality the conversation as a whole may have been successful and positive.
MoodGYM continues to introduce new ideas and opportunities for the user to discuss personal situations and follow examples on how to view them in a positive, or at least less negative light. I was actually motivated to do this because all of MoodGYM's theories were explained in a comprehensible, straightforward way, and continued to use the encouraging, humorous tone they'd had since the beginning.
MoodGYM emphasizes the importance of self-evaluation and looking at the "big picture." It is based on a type of therapy called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which focuses on changing how people think about themselves and how they behave. While some would say this is advice is ordinary, somehow MoodGYM has figured out a way to connect it to our lives, convincing us that insecurities really are overcomable if one wants to overcome them.
MoodGYM's success is undoubtedly built around the person's desire to improve their attitude. Since the website is highly interactive, how much one gets out of it depends on how much is put into it.
Can MoodGYM replace human contact or medication? Probably not. But it is free and can provide insight to a range of people, those who have been in a rut from a few months to a lifetime.
From my experience, I believe it can be effective for anyone, as long as they are willing to log on with an open mind.
National Research Center
for Women & Families
It teaches the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy, which has been found to be helpful for people with depression. Using flashed diagrams and online exercises, MoodGYM demonstrates the relationship between thoughts and emotions - users are taught to come to grips with their own feelings and the 'warpy' thoughts that might accompany them. MoodGYM also works through dealing with stress, handling separation and relationship break-ups, as well as relaxation and meditation techniques.MoodGYM is designed to provide a cognitive behavioral therapy approach to the prevention of depression.
How This Program Is Designed
You will be asked to take a couple of minutes at the beginning of each MoodGYM module to complete the Depression and Anxiety quizzes. These quizzes give you an indication of how you are feeling as you progress through MoodGYM. In the Workbook, there is a graph that displays your results on the Depression and Anxiety quizzes. This is useful for monitoring your progress throughout the program.
The Feelings module takes about 20 minutes to complete. In this module you:
||Find out about negative thinking patterns, biased perceptions of situations, and negative views about the future;
Discover if you have biased views of the future or of yourself;
Learn about how the way you think influences the way you feel; and
Reflect on how you tend to respond to day-to-day challenges.
There are four exercises for you to complete in this module. Your answers are recorded in your on-line workbook, and kept for you to use later in the program.
The final exercise of the Feelings module involves an exercise where you record events that occur over the next 3 days.
The Thoughts module takes about 25 minutes to complete. The module begins with depression and anxiety quizzes. After completing these, you will:
The last exercise of this module involves keeping a 'diary' of nice things you do for yourself during the next week.
||Learn to identify biased or 'warpy' thoughts that lots of people have.
See if you can identify these thoughts in yourself.
Learn how to challenge and contest your thoughts-they may not be accurate!
Find out the areas where you are most vulnerable: Is it the need for approval, the need to be loved, the need to succeed, the need to be perfect
Start learning about self-esteem and how to improve it.
The Unwarping module takes at least 30 minutes to complete. After completing the Depression and Anxiety quizzes, you will:
This assessment is lengthy (it has 319 questions) but at the end you will find out how frequently you do things you enjoy. You will also find out how you compare to other people. Do you engage in as many enjoyable activities as others? Are there things that you enjoy doing that you aren't doing at the moment? It will be worthwhile when you finish
||Learn ways of changing your thinking-for example, taking the role of the reporter, increasing positive thinking, setting up thought experiments, trying new ways of responding, being your own coach and mental biofeedback
try them all and see which works best for you
Work on improving areas where you may be at risk. Based on your responses to the first Depression and Anxiety quizzes, the program will identify your areas of vulnerability.
Get a chance to identify what sorts of activities you like in the Pleasant Events quiz.
The De-stressing module is designed to help you relax and cope with stress better. The module starts with the Depression and Anxiety quizzes. Once you have completed these quizzes, you will:
||Start learning about stress and how it works.
Find out about the stressors in your life and how they might affect you.
Complete a questionnaire that lets you know if you are vulnerable because you have be exposed to many stressful events in your life recently.
Try out some relaxation exercises that can help you deal with stress. There are three relaxation tapes and each can be downloaded free by clicking on the links - best to download them from a computer that has a 'broadband' connection (large files).
Examine your relationships with your family, particularly with your parents. Although it is written from the perspective of the young person, this section provides information that is useful for both parents and children.
Find out more about relaxation in the Relaxfest, the relaxation game.
Relationships can be a source of great distress when they go wrong. This module aims to help you cope with and grow after a relationship break-up. The module also describes simple, but highly
effective problem-solving strategies.
After completing the depression and anxiety quizzes, you will learn about:
||The thoughts and feelings that are common in different stages of relationship break-ups.
How to contest your thoughts so that you can cope better with relationship break-ups.
A simple problem solving strategy.