You've got to have hope: Studies show 'hope therapy' fights depression

August 16, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A growing body of research suggests that there is a potent way to fight symptoms of depression that doesn't involve getting a prescription.

This potent weapon? Hope.

"We're finding that hope is consistently associated with fewer symptoms of depression. And the good news is that hope is something that can be taught, and can be developed in many of the people who need it," said Jennifer Cheavens, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

Cheavens and Laura Dreer of the University of Alabama at Birmingham discussed some of the latest research on how hope can battle depression during a symposium Saturday Aug. 16 in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston.

Cheavens measures hope in people using a 12-item questionnaire developed by her mentor, the late C.R. Snyder of the University of Kansas. In this measure, hope has two components: a map or pathway to get what you want, and the motivation and strength to follow that path.

"If you feel you know how to get what you want out of life, and you have that desire to make that happen, then you have hope," Cheavens said.

Hope is different from optimism, which is a generalized expectancy that good things will happen, she said. Hope involves having goals, along with the desire and plan to achieve them.

The potential of hope as a way to fight depression is apparent in a recent study of patients and caregivers that Cheavens discussed in her APA presentation.

In this study, Cheavens and Dreer examined 97 adults, most over age 60, who had been diagnosed with macular degeneration or other conditions that would cause them to lose their sight.

The researchers looked at measures of hope and depression in these people with low vision, along with their caregivers.

As expected, the researchers found that, in general, caregivers were more likely to have significant depressive symptoms if the patients themselves had symptoms of depression.

But caregivers who scored higher on measures of hope showed fewer depressive symptoms, even if the people they care for were depressed. Higher-hope caregivers also showed higher satisfaction with life, and felt less of a sense of burden.

"Hope seems to be protective for caregivers," Cheavens said.

The good news is that hope is something that can be developed in people, she said.

In a study published in the journal Social Indicators Research, Cheavens and her colleagues tested a hope therapy treatment with a sample of 32 people recruited through newspaper ads and flyers. The ads asked for participants willing to attend weekly group meetings designed to increase participants' abilities to reach goals.

The researchers specifically looked for people who were not diagnosed with depression or other mental illnesses, but who felt dissatisfied with where they were in life.

"Many of the people who seek therapy are not mentally ill - they don't meet criteria for depression or other illnesses," Cheavens said. "So if you focus primarily on what is wrong with them, there may not be much progress."

"Hope therapy seeks to build on strengths people have, or teach them how to develop those strengths. We focus not on what is wrong, but on ways to help people live up to their potential."

In this study, about half the participants took part in eight, two-hour group sessions led by trained leaders. As part of these sessions, they were taught new hope-related skills, including identifying goals, ways to achieve them, and how to motivate themselves.

Results showed that those who participated in the hope therapy had reduced depressive symptoms compared to the control group that did not participate.

"We're finding that people can learn to be more hopeful, and that will help them in many ways," Cheavens said.

"What I think is exciting about hope therapy is the way we are learning from people who are doing very well. We have been figuring out what hopeful people are doing right, and taking those lessons and developing therapies and interventions for people who are not doing as well," Cheavens said.

"And the great news is that it seems to work - we can teach people how to be more hopeful."
-end-
Contact: Jennifer Cheavens, (614) 247-6733; Cheavens.1@osu.edu
Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.