Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Cognitive Therapy for Depression: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2006 Jan 1;73(1):90.

  See related article on cognitive therapy for depression.

What is cognitive therapy?

Cognitive (say: KOG-na-tiv) therapy is when a doctor talks to you about your bad thoughts and helps you to replace them with good thoughts. This can put you in a better mood and stop you from being depressed.

How do I know if I am depressed?

You may be depressed if you do not like to do the things that usually make you happy, or if you have been feeling sad for about two weeks. You also may be depressed if you:

  • Can’t sleep.

  • Can’t concentrate.

  • Eat less or more than usual.

  • Feel tired.

If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor. If you have thoughts about killing yourself, see your doctor right away.

Is this therapy better than medicine for depression?

Cognitive therapy is just as good if not better than medicine if you are depressed. Cognitive therapy also may help keep you from getting depressed again. If you are already taking medicine for depression, cognitive therapy still can help you if you have bad depression or if your depression won’t go away. If you think you may be depressed, your doctor can tell you if cognitive therapy is a good choice for you.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor.

Mind Over Mood, by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky

Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research

Web site:

American Institute for Cognitive Therapy

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

More in AFP

Editor's Collections


Jan 2022

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article