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  • Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
Hours: 2 Contact Hours
  • Alexandra L. Terrill, PhD
  • Brandon Abbs, PhD
Peer Reviewer(s): John G. Cagle, PhD, MSW
Item#: C6517
Contents: 1 Course Book (56 pages)

Chronic Illness and Depression

Price $19.95
Item # C6517
When available, the Online Course format is included with the hard copy, eBook, or audio book formats!

Release Date: April 4, 2016

Expiration Date: December 31, 2019

Chronic illness is a condition that lasts over a long time and typically cannot be completely cured, although it can be managed through medication and lifestyle. Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis are all examples of chronic conditions. Depression is also a chronic medical illness. Depression affects how a person feels, thinks, and behaves and frequently co-occurs with other chronic conditions. Depression in chronic illness decreases a person’s quality of life and leads to a greater utilization of healthcare resources. Nearly half of all adults in the United States experience a chronic illness, making depression in this population an issue with the potential to affect a large portion of adults. The depression experienced by this population comes in the form of both formally diagnosed depressive disorders and sub-threshold depressive symptoms. Often the depressive symptoms are somatic and overlap with those of the chronic disorder, making the depression difficult to assess and treat.

This intermediate-level course provides healthcare professionals with an overview of the co-occurrence of depression and chronic conditions and identifies challenges in assessing and treating adults with chronic conditions and depression. It provides explanations for potential causes of and contributing factors to depression unique to individuals with chronic medical conditions. Although individuals with chronic conditions are at increased risk for depression, this course also explores factors that may enhance such individuals’ well-being and diminish the likelihood of depression.

This course presents clinicians with an integrated view of the biological and psychological contributors to and consequences of chronic illness using a biopsychosocial model. Designed for social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists, the course examines the prevalence and symptoms of depression as well as selected chronic medical conditions with which depression is often associated. Structured means of assessing depression are also presented. Contributing risk and protective factors to depression and potential treatments are also explored. Research on depression in chronic illness and applications to practice are relatively new and constantly evolving. A review of this new information can help clinicians evaluate, develop, and implement interventions.

Course Objectives

  • Describe the co-occurrence of depression and chronic illness
  • Recognize the symptoms of depression and the challenges of identifying depressive symptoms in individuals with chronic illness
  • Identify common causes and contributing risk and protective factors for depression in individuals in medical populations
  • Describe treatment approaches for depression in individuals with chronic illness


Alexandra L. Terrill, PhD, received her PhD in clinical psychology from Washington State University, with specialized training in clinical health psychology. She also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington in rehabilitation psychology. During her fellowship, she was involved in research on aging with physical disabilities associated with chronic conditions. Dr. Terrill is currently a faculty member at the University of Utah, Division of Occupational Therapy. Her research encompasses three basic areas: (1) stress, coping/adjustment, and chronic health conditions; (2) using strengths-based interventions (positive psychology); and (3) aging. Her broad goal is to improve our understanding of how social, psychological, and biological processes interact to affect individuals aging with a chronic condition and develop interventions that enhance productivity and quality of life from early to late adulthood. She is particularly interested in investigating and enhancing protective factors involved in the prevention of and adjustment to chronic medical conditions and associated disability.

Brandon Abbs, PhD, earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Iowa and a BA in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park. He was most recently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. During this fellowship, he was involved in research projects on the relationship between maternal infection during pregnancy and a child’s risk for schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and early cognitive decline. He studied this relationship using neuroimaging and neuropsychology. He is currently a senior medical writer for a biotechnology company in Boston, where he composes documents needed to conduct clinical trials in oncology and to inform people about specific cancer types and available treatments.


John G. Cagle, PhD, MSW, is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore. His work focuses on the psychosocial dimensions of family caregiving and coping with life-threatening illness. As a clinician-researcher, his scholarship is informed by nearly a decade of experience as a hospice social worker. His scholarship includes work on the application of cognitive-behavioral treatment approaches with families coping with serious, life-threatening illness. His research has also included clinical trials to assess for and address barriers to pain management in hospice care, efforts to improve palliative care in long-term care settings, and an evaluation of caregiving at the end of life. His work has been supported by the John A. Hartford Foundation, the National Palliative Care Research Center, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Institutes of Health.

  • Courses must be completed on or before the expiration date noted in the course description above.
  • You must score 75% or higher on the final exam and complete the course evaluation to pass this course and receive a certificate of completion.
  • Through our review processes, Western Schools ensures that this course content is presented in a balanced, unbiased manner and is free from commercial influence. It is Western Schools’ policy not to accept commercial support.
  • All persons involved in the planning and development of this course have disclosed no relevant financial relationships or other conflicts of interest related to the course content.