Well-being therapy (WBT) is an innovative psychotherapeutic strategy for enhancing psychological well-being and resilience in patients with depression and anxiety disorders. This week, Giovanni A. Fava, the world-renowned psychiatrist and founder of this increasingly popular approach, has released the first treatment manual on WBT. It offers a personal account of how WBT was developed and provides a step-by-step guide on how to conduct treatment sessions for a variety of conditions.
The goal of WBT is to improve the patientʼs level of psychological well-being and quality of life in six major areas of personal functioning: mastery of everyday situations, autonomy, personal growth, a sense of purpose in life, positive relationships with others, and self-acceptance. The therapy was originally developed to prevent relapse in the residual phase of depression, which is a common problem. Since then, Dr. Favaʼs team has shown in clinical studies that WBT also works in other psychiatric conditions like general anxiety disorder, mood swings, agoraphobia, panic and posttraumatic stress disorders. More recently, WBT has been successfully tested in children and adolescents with major depression and in educational settings with groups of children.
How does WBT work?
WBT uses tools from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but while CBT focuses on identifying negative thoughts and troubling emotions, WBT encourages patients to recognize their positive experiences and feelings and to record them in a daily diary. Through careful self-observation, patients learn to identify thoughts and behaviors that interfere with their sense of well-being and, in a next step, to formulate an observerʼs interpretation of the situation. Finally, the therapist introduces some of the areas of psychological well-being that are most relevant to the patientʼs experience and discusses possible modifications. WBT is a highly structured, short-term strategy that extends over 8 sessions, which may take place every week or every other week, with possible variations in structure and timing.
Giovanni Fava explains: "The focus of Well-Being Therapy is individualized, depending on the specific profile of the patient, and it is very flexible. Itʼs not used as a first-line treatment but is typically delivered following pharmacological or other psychological interventions."
A new phase in psychotherapy
The publication of Dr. Favaʼs long-awaited book "is a landmark event" (Jesse H. Wright in the foreword) and marks the beginning of a new phase in the development of WBT: Session-by-session instructions are now laid out for clinicians to use in everyday practice. The book is written in an accessible style and filled with anecdotes from Dr. Favaʼs medical career and case studies, making it fascinating reading not only for psychiatrists and psychologists but also for a broader audience. It will most certainly promote wider use of this therapy, which offers great promise for patients to achieve recovery and lead a balanced and fulfilling life.