David A. Clark Offers Advice for Keeping the Blues from Turning into Depression
Guilford Press; 8/17/14
Occasional feelings of hopelessness are a part of everyday sadness. But, when unaddressed, they can lead to persistent despair and full-blown depression. In his new book, The Mood Repair Toolkit, renowned cognitive behavior therapist David A. Clark provides strategies your clients can use to prevent the blues from turning into depression. In this free excerpt, Clark provides a mood repair strategy you can share with your clients:
Mental Contrasting 101
Mental contrasting involves intentionally imagining a positive future goal and then reflecting on obstacles or problems in the present reality that interfere with achieving the goal. For example, a single woman imagines falling in love but then realizes she hasn't had a date in months, or a single man imagines increases his social activities but has just moved to a new city and realizes that he has a very limited social network.
Research has shown that when people feel sad but engage in mental contrasting, they have higher expectations for success and feel more energized in their commitment toward the future positive goal. It is important to get the order correct: First, imagine your goal or aspiration, and then think about the obstacles preventing goal achievement.
Mental contrasting is a good example of a mood repair strategy that involves "harnessing" your sad mood. It seems to work best when you are in a more reflective mode of thinking, as you may be during a sad mood. You need to be in the frame of mind where you can take time and ponder the challenges and obstacles to attaining your goal.
How to Practice Mental Contrasting
1. Make a list of two or three positive future goals. Then elaborate on your positive goals, providing enough detail that you can clearly imagine what it would be like to achieve them.
2. Next, think about two or three obstacles or difficulties in the present real world that would interfere with attaining one of your goals. Again, elaborate on these obstacles, but think about what you can do to overcome the obstacles and attain the positive goal. Think about the goal in light of the obstacles and challenges; that is, mentally contrast them. Can you see yourself overcoming the barriers and being successful at attaining the positive life goal?
The Mood Repair Toolkit is expressly designed for readers struggling with chronic low moods or subclinical depression. It provides 80 effective "mood repair" strategies anchored in cutting-edge knowledge on emotion regulation and mood management. Purchasers get access to a Web page where they can download and print the book's practical tools (including record sheets and diary forms) in a convenient 8½" x 11" size.
David A. Clark, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at the University of New Brunswick, Canada, where he also has had a private practice for 25 years. Dr. Clark is a widely recognized authority on cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety and depression.