Psychological Medicine

Well-being therapy. A novel psychotherapeutic approach for residual symptoms of affective disorders

G. A. FAVA a1c1, C. RAFANELLI a1, M. CAZZARO a1, S. CONTI a1 and S. GRANDI a1
a1 From the Affective Disorders Program and the Laboratory of Experimental Psychotherapy, Department of Psychology, University of Bologna and Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Padova, Italy; and Department of Psychiatry, State University of New York at Buffalo, New York, USA


Background. There is increasing awareness of the prognostic value of residual symptomatology in affective disorders and of the need for specific therapeutic strategies in this phase of illness. The aims of the study were to apply a novel, short-term psychotherapeutic approach for increasing well-being, based on Ryff's conceptual model, to remitted patients with affective disorders and to compare the results with those obtained with symptom-oriented cognitive behavioural strategies.

Methods. Twenty patients with affective disorders (major depression, panic disorder with agoraphobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder) who had been successfully treated by behavioural or pharmacological methods were randomly assigned to a well-being enhancing therapeutic strategy (well-being therapy) or cognitive–behavioural treatment of residual symptoms.

Results. Both well-being and cognitive–behavioural therapies were associated with a significant reduction of residual symptoms. However, a significant advantage of well-being therapy over cognitive–behavioural strategies was observed with observer-rated methods.

Discussion. These preliminary results suggest the feasibility of well-being therapy in the residual stage of affective disorders. Further research should determine its value as a relapse-preventive strategy in specific mood and anxiety disorders.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Giovanni A. Fava, Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, viale Berti Pichat 5, 40127 Bologna, Italy.