Research in the DeRubeis lab focuses on the nature of depression, the effectiveness of treatments for it, and the reasons treatments are effective. Our particular focus is on the role that conscious (or readily accessible) beliefs play both in the maintenance of depression and in its reduction. Further, we have conducted research concerning how people with depression can be helped to gain control over their thinking using a treatment approach called cognitive therapy. One possible story, endorsed by advocates of cognitive therapy, is this:
1. Depressed people, at least while depressed, think poorly, in a way that leads them to draw unnecessarily negative conclusions about themselves, their future, and their world.
2. Cognitive therapy is an effective treatment for depression, even for more severe forms of depression. Moreover, cognitive therapy produces enduring changes that serve to prevent the return of symptoms even after treatment is discontinued.
3. The effectiveness of cognitive therapy derives primarily from cognitive therapists’ efforts to teach depressed people how to attend to their unrealistically negative beliefs, how to question the validity of those beliefs, and how to form more valid or realistic beliefs.
Each of these three propositions, although strongly believed in some circles at various times over the last 30 years, has been seriously questioned in the last decade or two. Studies currently being conducted in our lab are designed to test these propositions. Large databases and archives (e.g., videotapes of cognitive therapy sessions) are available to test novel hypotheses.