Study Suggests Patients Can Treat Depression on Their Own

Imagery training reduces depression by half.

Posted Dec 10, 2017

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Source: Fotolia_91480359_XS copy

Roughly 8 million people suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) each year, and these patients are often treated using imagery techniques.  Imagery techniques empower PTSD sufferers to replace negative mental images with positive ones and deal more effectively with negative emotions.  Now, this same technique could offer benefits to those seeking to overcome depression, and even those just striving for everyday happiness.

Dr. Svetla Velikova of Smartbrain, a Norway-based health tech company, conducted a study of 30 participants, in which they utilized imagery techniques.  First, the participants attended a two-day workshop to learn the techniques, which included imagery transformation, utilizing positive images for future situations, and improving both daily social interactions and emotional balance.  Then, they spent 12 weeks putting their newfound knowledge to the test.  They had to spend 15-20 minutes training themselves each day.

After the 12-week mark, the participants returned for another two-day workshop.  Velikova measured their brain activity and psychological health in both workshops.  In the second workshop, the occurrence of depressive symptoms had greatly decreased.  And the number of participants on the threshold of depression was reduced by half.  In general, the participants expressed higher life satisfaction and self-efficiency.

The results of Dr. Velikova’s study are promising.  Up to this point, it seemed the only way we could course correct depression, and similar ailments, was through the guidance of a professional therapist.  However, the study participants showed an encouraging response to the imagery training they did on their own. 

This means subthreshold depression patients could steer their own treatments, and companies could even employ similar strategies to boost employee morale and equip their teams to handle big changes. 

But most important, this study reminds us that we are in control of our happiness.  Though some of us may require more pronounced techniques and strategies to change our lives, we possess the power to move things in the right direction.


Svetla Velikova, Haldor Sjaaheim, Bente Nordtug. Can the Psycho-Emotional State be Optimized by Regular Use of Positive Imagery?, Psychological and Electroencephalographic Study of Self-Guided Training. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2017; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00664