In the PLOS Blog Mind the Brain, James Coyne provides a detailed critical evaluation of a recent meta-analysis of “positive psychology” interventions for depression.
“Going back to my first publication almost 40 years ago, I’ve been interested in the inept strategies that other people adopt to try to cheer up depressed persons,” writes Coyne. “The risk of positive psychology interventions is that depressed primary care patients would perceive the exercises as more ineffectual pressures on them to think good thoughts, be optimistic and snap out of their depression. If depressed persons try these exercises without feeling better, they are accumulating more failure experiences and further evidence that they are defective, particularly in the context of glowing claims in the popular media of the power of simple positive psychology interventions to transform lives.”
Coyne calls the abstract for the 2013 meta-analysis he finds in BMC Public Health “wishy-washy”, and proceeds to walk through it step by step to determine if techniques such as counting your blessings, practicing kindness, or setting personal goals actually help alleviate depressive symptoms or not.
Positive psychology interventions for depressive symptoms (Mind the Brain, October 28, 2014)