Stability and Change of Sociotropy and Autonomy Subscales in Cognitive Therapy of Depression

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Sociotropy and autonomy have been demonstrated to be a diathesis for depression as well as predictors of treatment outcome. There are few studies, however, that have investigated whether these vulnerability factors change with cognitive therapy (CT) and are associated with outcome in CT. Also, it appears that the autonomy construct may have both positive and negative content and it is important to examine these two aspects of autonomy in treatment. In this study, depressed outpatients (N = 149) were followed from intake to the 12th session of CT. The treatment outcome variables included depression (Beck Depression Inventory), hopelessness (Beck Hopelessness Scale), and sociotropy and autonomy (Sociotropy-Autonomy Scale [SAS]). Using a repeated measures analysis, depression symptoms and hopelessness decreased significantly over time. Both subscales of sociotropy, preference for affiliation and fear of criticism and rejection, were positively associated with depression at intake, and decreased significantly over time in those who responded to treatment. However, independent goal attainment, one subscale of autonomy, increased significantly over sessions and was associated with treatment response. The second subscale of autonomy, sensitivity to others' control, demonstrated no change. The results suggest that independent goal attainment may be an indicator of psychological health. Implications for future research using the SAS and its subscales in treatment and vulnerability research are described.

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