Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Late-Life Depression

An Evidence-Based Practice


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Late-Life Depression is an active, directive, time-limited, and stuctured problem-solving approach program that follows the conceptual model and treatment program developed by Aaron Beck and his colleagues. CBT for Late-Life Depression includes specific modifications for elderly depressed individuals who are being treated as outpatients. The intervention includes strategies to facilitate learning with this population, such as repeated presentation of information using different modalities, slower rates of presentation, and greater use of practice along with greater use of structure and modeling behavior. Patients are taught to identify, monitor, and ultimately challenge negative thoughts about themselves or their situations and develop more adaptive and flexible thoughts. Where appropriate, emphasis is also placed on teaching patients to monitor and increase pleasant events in their daily lives using behavioral treatment procedures. The intervention consists of up to 20 50- to 60-minute sessions following a structured manual.

Goal / Mission

The goal of this program is to use cognitive behavioral therapy to treat depression in older adults.

Results / Accomplishments

The CBT for Late-Life Depression basic protocol (or variations of this protocol) has been in use for about 25 years. Since 1980, the developer has trained over 50 psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and nurse specialists in using the protocol, most of whom have assumed clinical positions in their settings. Many clinical centers have used the protocol or parts of it, and five have been evaluated for outcomes (three under the developer's supervision). About 700 patients and more than 1,000 caregivers have participated in the program through Stanford University's Older Adult and Family Center over the past two decades. Modifications of the protocol are being used to treat special populations, such as family caregivers in a group format.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Larry W. Thompson, Ph.D.
Stanford University School of Medicine
P.O. Box 3926
Los Altos, CA 94024-0926
(650) 400-8171
Health / Mental Health & Mental Disorders
Health / Older Adults & Aging
Stanford University School of Medicine
SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-Based Practices and Programs (NREPP)
Date of publication
Dec 2006
Geographic Type
Los Altos, CA
For more details
Target Audience
Adults, Elderly

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