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The Psychology of Depression: Contemporary Theory and Research

Friedman RJ, Katz MM, Editors: The Psychology of Depression: Contemporary Theory and Research.

Washington: John Wiley & Sons (VH Winston & Sons), 1974.

(318 pages)                         

Reviewed by Martin M. Katz

INFORMATION ON CONTENT; At a time in 1968 when the biology of depression and the role of the new drugs were at the forefront of attention, it appeared that research on the psychological aspects of depression was being abandoned as an arena of serious study.

The NIMH through its Clinical Research Branch recognizing the importance of maintaining a strong effort in this area, convened a conference to review the status of research and treatment on the psychology of depression. In 1969 Branch staff assembled leading theoreticians and investigators to analyze developments in psychological theory and the progress of new treatments designed to target these disorders. Prominent were presentations on behavioral theory and therapy, Beck’s new cognitive approach and the status of psychoanalytic theory. Treatments that involved new research approaches such as “learned helplessness’ and Skinnerian conditioning were examined as were the relationships of these approaches to the new biological procedures.

The book is divided into four parts: (1) Contemporary Theory; (2)

Contemporary Research; (3) Overview and Perspectives; (4) Reflections.

Part I. Contemporary Theory: There are presentations on three theoretical positions in the psychology of depression: The Development of Depression: A Cognitive Model by Aaron Beck, Behavioral Approaches to Depression by Charles Fuerster and the Depressive Personality, a psychoanalytic approach by Paul Chodoff. Each was followed by discussion.

Part II Contemporary Research: Eight diverse efforts at the forefront of research were described, each followed by discussion. They included: Depression and Learned Helplessness by Martin Seligman,  Depression and Adaptation by Gerald Klerman, A Behavioral Approach to Depression by Peter Lewinson, Depression as an Indicator of Lethality in Suicidal Patients by Carl Wold and Norman Tabachnick and Noverbal Behavior and Psychopathology by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen.

Part III Overview and Perspectives: This part consisted of a panel discussion of a number of complex issues still unresolved confronting the broader field of investigators. It was introduced by Martin Katz and followed by a general discussion among all conferees. The panel was multidisciplinary and included psychiatrists, psychologists and an anthropologist. Leading presenters covered the following issues: On Translating Concepts across Disciplines: Jarl Dryud, On the Biology of Depression: Frederick Goodwin, On Animal Models: I.C. Kaufman, On Development and the Conservation-Withdrawl Reaction: Arthur Schmale, Jr.  and On Meaning and Expression in Other Cultures: Melford Spiro.

Part IV Reflections: The Editors express their views on the accomplishments of the Conference. Raymond Friedman provided his Overview and Martin Katz ,an Epilogue: On Future Directions

REVIEWER’S COMMENT: Contrary to the notion that psychological and sociocultural research was stagnant or neglected at that time, the volume presents a diverse set of approaches and theory that boded well for the future of research efforts and treatment in this area.


Martin M. Katz

May 28, 2015