Productive and unproductive cognitive/emotional processing in psychotherapy for depression

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Adele Hayes - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Jean-Philippe Laurenceau - Committee Member


Unproductive processing of upsetting experiences, including intrusive thoughts and depressive rumination, has been implicated in models of psychopathology. Productive processing has been described as an important component of psychotherapy and successful adaptation to traumatic experience. The goals of the present study are: (1) to develop a new procedure for assessing unproductive, sustained processing in samples of expressive writing, and (2) to assess the association of reductions in rumination with productive processing in individuals undergoing an integrative psychotherapy for depression. Partial support was found for the proposed assessment of unproductive sustained processing. Essays from longer periods of unproductive processing contained greater focus on negative aspects of the self and less focus on positive aspects of the self. The interaction of change in self-reported brooding (a form of depressive rumination) and productive processing predicted change in depression symptoms over the course of treatment. Results suggest that individuals who reduce brooding and experience high levels of productive processing during treatment report greater symptom reduction than those with little change in brooding and high levels of productive processing.


Psychology, Clinical

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