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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Post Heart Surgery Depression

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 7th 2009

 The April 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry contains an article that demonstrates the effectiveness of two types of psychotherapy in help post coronary artery bypass surgery patients recover from depression associated with the procedure. According to the researchers, one in every five coronary artery bypass surgery patient suffers post surgical major depression. This depression complicates recovery to the extent that it leads to additional heart complications and a  shortened life span. It is also pointed out the depression at the time of surgery is a good predictor of outcome.

In this study, patients were divided into three groups. The control group were given the usual physician and nurse pre and post surgery care. The second was subjected to cognitive behavior therapy to help them with unrealistic and thoughts increased their depression so that they could cope better. The third group was subjected to supportive stress management. The two experimental groups were lead by either a licensed clinical psychologist or licensed clinical social worker. In both experimental groups the focus was on patients problem solving.

The results of the study were dramatic in demonstrating the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive stress management in helping patients overcome depression without the use of anti depressant medications as compared to the control group. In addition, cognitive behavior therapy was dramatically superior to supportive stress management in reducing depression associated with depression.


Here is another study that clearly demonstrates the direct relationship between mind and body. In other words, self defeating and unrealistic thoughts lead directly to the types of attitudes and behaviors that have a negative impact on recovery and even leads to death.

It is important to point out that other studies show a direct relationship between depression and the advent of heart disease. How can depression lead to heart disease? It is thought that depression causes people to behave in ways that are very unhealthy. Depression often causes people to not exercise, over eat, smoke and drink. All of these are implicated in heart disease.

Depression must be taken seriously. By seriously I mean that it is important to get help, especially the cognitive behavioral type of help that can improve the quality of life and very possibly prevent heart disease.

There are many psychologists and social workers trained and certified in cognitive behavior therapy and it is up to the consumer to shop for this type of mental health worker.

This therapy combined with a program of exercise, meditation and yoga are extremely helpful. I recommend the article written by our own Dr. Elisha Goldstein to help the reader learn how to reduce stress and lead a healthier life.

Your comments and questions are always encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD






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.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Counselors - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jul 31st 2009


I do not have statistics to answer your question. Perhaps if you do a search of the National Institute of Health (NIH) web site or the National Institute of Mental Health web site, you could find your answer. If such a study has been done for general surgery patients, then I assume (rightly or wrongly) that the numbers would be positive.

Dr. Schwartz

Question - Jenny - Jul 30th 2009

I am wondering what the statistics are for people who get access to a mental health counselor post-surgery.

Lung Surgery - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Apr 7th 2009

Hello Sadstar,

The answer to your question is Yes, the same depression could apply to lung surgery and, most certainly, having part or most of a lung removed. These are very serious and traumatizing surgeries, not to mention the illnesses that lead up to the need for such surgery. It is never too late to get help with depression resulting from this type of thing.

Dr. Schwartz

Lung Surgery? - sadstar - Apr 7th 2009

Could this apply to someone who has had major surgery, such as lung surgery, having most of a lung removed?

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