A new study repudiates gratitude interventions as a treatment for depression.
The original intention of positive psychology was to expand mental health, not to cure mental illness. But wannabes self-help gurus, and some mental health professionals, hawk positive psychology interventions as a panacea for clinical disorders.
As the study authors note, gratitude interventions have value (for example, improving relationships) — but not much for the treatment of depression or anxiety.
Ultimately, the authors state (in Gratitude Interventions: Effective Self-help? A Meta-analysis of the Impact on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety):
Consistent with past reviews, we found gratitude interventions had a medium effect when compared with waitlist-only conditions, but only a trivial effect when compared with putatively inert control conditions involving any kind of activity.
In other words, gratitude interventions didn’t fair better than other behavioral activities used as controls.
A remaining controversy is how the limited efficacy of gratitude interventions compares to popular antidepressant medications.