Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Post Heart Surgery Depression

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

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.


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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

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