Dr. Steven Hollon speaks on cognitive therapy for nursing Spring Seminar

An expert in cognitive therapy gives insight into his methodology


Matthew Harrison

Collegian File Photo

By Derek Hunter, Collegian Contributor

The University of Massachusetts College of Nursing held its 2021 Spring Seminar series with Dr. Steven Hollon discussing “Cognitive Therapy for Depression: From Action to Insight and Back Again” on Tuesday.

Hollon is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University and his primary interest lies in the etiology and treatment of depression in adults, according to his profile on the Vanderbilt University website. The seminar was focused on the techniques of cognitive therapy and  their comparison to medication and the techniques Hollon used on his own patients.

“Dr. Hollon is an expert in the interaction between cognitive and biological processes in the pathogenesis and treatment of depression,” according to the event coordinator, Ian Cooke. “One particularly important aspect of Dr. Hollon’s work is the integration of specific behavioral and cognitive strategies that have traditionally formed the core of Cognitive Therapy within the framework of more recent theoretical extensions developed to deal with long-standing personality disorders.”

Hollon began the seminar with a comparison between both cognitive therapy and medicative therapy. He emphasized the equal ability of both to provide help with depression, highlighting that cognitive therapy has sometimes been seen as not comparatively effective.

Continuous cognitive therapy occurring more than once a week has also been shown to help patients when they relapse into depression, allowing them to escape it more reliably.

“It is not that people who are depressed cannot do it, it is that they do not try,” Hollon said. He established that many depressive thoughts are about relationships with others or occupation and that people often shut themselves down about something before they attempt it. When speaking about a specific patient who felt stuck in his career and how to escape it, Hollon said that “his predictions typically underestimate what he can actually do.”

Hollon gave examples of cognitive therapy techniques that were focused on changing the way the patient thought about themselves and required seeing the patient for many sessions. The “cognitive model” is centered around the negative sentiments depressive patients experience. Their thoughts, moods, behaviors, and physiology are all interconnected in experiencing their depression. Each is focused on and each is attempted to be thought of in a new light.

Holland also uses a “thought record” where patients write down their automatic depressive thoughts and then rethink them by giving alternative responses. He said that they ask themselves, “What is the evidence that the automatic thought is true? Are there alternative explanations?” These questions help patients to understand that their negative thought processes are in most cases unfounded.

Gabrielle Abelard, a clinical assistant professor for the College of Nursing, attended the seminar and gave her thoughts during the question-and-answer section.

“Being in the outpatient world and doing mostly psychopharmacology in terms of seeing clients and assessment, I have to say that it has not been the practice to see clients more than once a week,” Abelard said. “I walk away with a new approach in mind when it comes to dealing with individuals with depression.”

The 2021 Spring Seminar will continue on April 13 when Dr. Joseph Caprini from the University of Chicago will discuss thrombosis risk assessment and the latest guidelines for anticoagulation in patients.

Derek Hunter can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @dchunter0.