The Relationship Between Automatic Thoughts and Depression in a Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for People Living with HIV/AIDS: Exploring Temporality and Causality

Kristen E. Riley, Jasper S. Lee, Steven A. Safren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Depression in people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) is highly prevalent and related to worse adherence to antiretroviral therapy, but is amenable to change via CBT. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adherence and depression (CBT-AD) specifically addresses negative automatic thoughts (ATs) as one component of the treatment. There is little research on the temporal nature of the relation between ATs and depression. HIV-positive adults with depression (N = 240) were randomized to CBT-AD, information/supportive psychotherapy for adherence and depression (ISP-AD), or one session of adherence counseling alone (ETAU). ATs were self-reported (Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire; ATQ) and depression was assessed by blinded interview (Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale; MADRS) at baseline, and 4-, 8-, and 12-months. We performed autoregressive cross-lagged panel models. Broadly, decreases in ATs were followed by decreases in depression, but decreases in depression were not followed by decreases in ATs. In CBT-AD, decreases in ATs were followed by decreases in depression, and vice versa. However, in the ISP group, while depression and ATs both significantly influenced each other, not all relations were in the direction expected. This study adds to the evidence base for cognitive interventions to decrease depression in individuals with a chronic medical condition, HIV/AIDS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-719
Number of pages8
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


  • Automatic thoughts
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Depression

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