New research published in Clinical Psychological Science indicates that memory training could actually help improve symptoms in individuals suffering from depression. The research might help counsellors come up with more effective treatment plans for people suffering from the condition, with memory training making a potential supplement to the demonstrably effective cognitive behavioural therapy. After just five weekly sessions, the group’s scores on a questionnaire designed to measure the symptoms of anxiety and depression improved significantly, compared to those who did not undergo the training. The sample size for the study wasn’t huge, but the link between memory and depression may have wide-ranging implications for the treatment of the condition.
Depression isn’t just a passing period of the blues. The condition is characterised by a lack of energy, lack of enjoyment in activities that used to bring pleasure and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness on a day-to-day basis. Even tasks like getting out of bed and putting clothes on seem like insurmountable feats, which make ordinary life exceptionally difficult for people suffering from depression. Counselling using an approach such as cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective treatment, along with anti-depressant medications such as SSRIs.
The new study was conducted on Afghani refugees in Iran. The participants had all lost their fathers in the war, and consequently displayed symptoms of depression. There were 23 involved in the study in total, and they were split into two groups. All of the participants were given a memory test at the beginning of the study, along with a questionnaire to help determine the severity of their depression. The memory test presented them with words in Persian, to which they were asked to respond with a specific memory. The words had a mixture of negative, neutral and positive connotations, and each memory was classed as either specific or non-specific.
The 12 participants in the experimental group then attended a weekly memory training session, in which they learnt about types of memory and recall. They were also given the opportunity to practice recalling specific memories in response to similar keywords as on the initial test. The 11 participants not in this group served as the control group, who didn’t receive any training. The tests were issued again after the five week period, and then again two months later as part of a follow-up. The depression and anxiety questionnaire enabled a counsellor to judge the severity of the participants’ symptoms.
At the two month follow-up, the patients who received the training were more likely to recall specific memories in response to the stimulus words. They also showed fewer symptoms of depression compared to those who didn’t receive the training, which indicates that memory recall has some impact on depression. The theory is that the inability to recall specific memories from the past affects the individuals’ ability to solve problems and therefore contributes to depression. This means that psychotherapy for depression could benefit from including sessions on memory training.
These results potentially open up a new area of treatment for those suffering from depression. The researchers suggested that using cognitive behavioural therapy in combination with a supplementary memory training programme could prove extremely effective for depression treatment. The therapist would be able to help the individual in the ordinary way, but the memory training would improve their problem-solving abilities and therefore combat their depression.
If you or your loved one is suffering from depression, finding treatment is absolutely essential. A counsellor can help you get through a difficult patch, and psychotherapy can address the deep-seated issues and negative thought patterns which often contribute to the condition. If you’re unsure about the severity of you or your loved one’s condition and what the best option is for treatment, we can help you get the right care. We’ll conduct an assessment of your requirements and suggest the most suitable treatments to you. Drop by our Luton offices or get in touch with us via telephone and see how we can help you!