Recalling Recent Experiences in Session


I do many things at the beginning of therapy sessions, one of which is to ask patients about their experiences since I last saw them. Depressed patients routinely report only negative incidents. I then ask them what positive things happened, or what was going on during the better parts of their week. One reason I do this is to collect data that may be contrary to their globally negative thinking. (“No one likes me.” “It isn’t worth doing anything.” “Everything is terrible.”)

Another reason I do this is to allow the session to be a little more conversational, a little lighter in tone. I also find that having patients recall positive experience lightens their mood and makes it easier for them to take a more realistic (less negative) view of their problems. A recent study confirms the importance of doing so. When people are depressed, their thinking is more rigid and ruminative when stimuli are negative, which translates into greater difficulty in solving problems.  

-Judith S. Beck, Ph.D.