Self-System Therapy for Depression

Status: Modest Research Support


Self-System Therapy (SST) is a brief, structured psychotherapy that is based on Higgin’s (1997) regulatory focus theory. SST was designed for depressed individuals with problematic self-regulation as a primary factor in the onset and maintenance of depression. Depression is conceptualized as disorder of motivation and goal pursuit due to chronic failure attaining personal goals. Theses individuals experience a high discrepancy between their actual and ideal selves, together with a high incentive motivation. SST incorporates techniques from a number of empirically-supported psychotherapies, including cognitive, interpersonal, and behavioral activation therapies. The focus of SST is on translating the principles of regulatory focus theory into an intervention that examines and modifies the individual’s goals and the strategies for pursuing them. This treatment focuses on self-evaluation and increasing promotion-focused behavior through psychoeducation, helping patients learn to conduct their own situations and belief analysis, altering or compensating for one’s regulatory style, and moving toward a view of self in a broader context. SST includes from 20 to 25 sessions.


Key References (in reverse chronological order)

Eddington, K.M., Silvia, P.J., Foxworth, T. E., Hoet, A. S., & Kwapil, T.R. (2015).  Motivational deficits differentially predict improvement in a randomized trial of self-system therapy for depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(3), 602-616.

Eddington, K.M., Dolcos, F., Cabeza, R., Krishnan, K.R.R., & Strauman T.J. (2007). Neural correlates of promotion and prevention goal activation: An fMRI study using an idiographic approach. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19, 1152-1162.

Strauman, T. J., Veith, A. Z., Kolden, G. G., Woods, T. E., Klein, M. H., Papadakis, A. A., et al. (2006). Self-system therapy as an intervention for self-regulatory dysfunction in depression. A randomized comparison with cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 367-376.


Clinical Resources

Self-System Therapy for Depression: Therapist Guide (Treatments That Work; Eddington, Strauman, Vieth, & Kolden)

Self-System Therapy for Depression: Client Workbook (Treatments That Work; Eddington, Strauman, Vieth, & Kolden)

Strauman, T.J., & Eddington, K.M. (2017). Treatment of depression from a self-regulation perspective: basic concepts and applied strategies in self-system therapy. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 41(1), 1-15.

Veith, A. Z., Strauman, T. J., Kolden, G. G., Woods, T. E., Michels, J. L., & Klein, M. H. (2003). Self-system therapy (SST): A theory-based psychotherapy for depression. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 245-268.


Training Opportunities

For training opportunities, please contact Dr. Timothy Strauman.