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Depression Primer

Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Meditation: A Treatment for Depression?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 10th 2006

One of the great concerns to patients and clinicians is the fact that there is a risk of relapse after the successful treatment of depression. However, Dr. Adam Anderson, the chairman of the Cognitive Neuroscience Department at the University of Toronto states that meditation is an effective way for patients to control and prevent depression. His findings are based on research with depressed patients using MRI's to scan their brains during meditation sessions. Meditation, according to Dr. Anderson, focuses on mindfulness pr becoming aware of your body and your feelings. The brain scans revealed that the center of activity during meditation, shifts from the parts of the brain that control thinking and judgment to the older areas in which emotions are centered. By becoming aware of those emotions, one is able to reduce the emotional impact of events and memories that lead to depressive thoughts and feelings.

This research is intriguing because it lends further support to the notion that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) works. In CBT the patient learns to alter the unrealistic thoughts that lead to depression. In other words, our thoughts influence our emotions. Therefore, it makes sense to use meditation to bypass thoughts and concentrate on feelings and body awareness while suspending judgment.

In my many years of experience as a clinician, cognitive-behavioral therapy is enormously helpful because it empowers patients to get control of their emotions rather than feeling victimized and helpless. At the same time, I instruct patients how to do and use meditation, which gives them an additional sense of self empowerment over their sensations. So often, people, during their depression, feel helpless and hopeless.

Are these the only things I have patients do? No, because they are asked to exercise daily and to eat properly.

In conclusion, while anti depressant medications are necessary for many people they are not the full solution to treating depressive symptoms.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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