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SWOT Analysis as a Strength-Based Tool for Treatment Planning in Depression

      
                        
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT analysis is a tool businesses and organizations use for strategic planning. The tool serves as a guide for organizations to take advantage of their strengths, work on their weaknesses, explore external opportunities, and protect themselves from external threats. You can use the same tool to strategize your life goals and treatment goals. This tool will enable you to appraise your positive and negative attributes regarding a particular goal or situation, the impact of external factors on the goal or situation, and guide you to make rational choices based on this analysis. SWOT is described below:

Strengths: These are your tangible or intangible internal positive attributes that you have control over. Besides your character strengths, your strengths also include your knowledge, skills, abilities, credentials, reputation, and network. The tangible piece of your strengths includes your tangible assets, material resources, finances, etc.    
Weaknesses: Weaknesses are internal negative attributes that prevent you from achieving your goals or reaching your full potential. Like strengths, weaknesses can be intangible such as maladaptive habits or thought patterns (e.g., procrastination, brooding, pessimistic thinking, indecisiveness) or tangible (e.g., lack of material resources, not having a steady job, not having any close relationships, etc.). Weaknesses may be the flip side of strengths. Like strengths, weaknesses are under your control.
Opportunities: Opportunities are conditions in your external environment that you can benefit from or take advantage of to promote your goals or to foster self-growth. Unlike strengths, you don’t have control over opportunities. For example, depression or other self-help groups in your area, availability of new online tools for treating depression, opportunities to expand your job skills through training, change in rules of health insurance companies making some treatment modalities for depression more accessible to people, etc.).
Threats: Threats are adverse changes in your external environment that are beyond your control and may jeopardize your goals. For example, higher copay or insurance premiums for health insurance, stressful life events (losing your job), exacerbation of medical conditions, etc. While it may be impossible to predict threats, it is prudent to have a contingency or crisis plan in place to address them.
To illustrate the use of SWOT analysis as a treatment planning tool, consider an individual who is planning to add an exercise regimen as a part of their self-management strategy to overcome depression. Their strengths may include their motivation to implement the exercise program and their previous experience with exercise, weaknesses may include a tendency to procrastinate or come up with excuses why they can't find time to exercise, opportunities may include finding an exercise partner, which then increases accountability or getting a discounted membership at a gym, and threats may include closure of a gym or other potentially conflicting demands at work or home. If you are unsure of your abilities or doubt your self-confidence to accomplish a certain task, then the SWOT matrix in table below would provide you a broader perspective on your ability to accomplish a goal. Not only would it provide you with the impetus to explore your strengths (some of which you may have taken for granted), but also help you prepare a plan to handle weaknesses and potential threats. 

Table: SWOT Matrix.
STRENGTHS
1.
2.
3.

WEAKNESSES
1.
2.
3.
OPPORTUNITIES
1.
2.
3.
THREATS
1.
2.
3.


My plan to use strengths:
My plan to overcome weaknesses:


My plan to tap into opportunities:
My plan to address potential threats:



To learn more about evidence-based self-management techniques that are proven to work for depression, check out Dr. Duggal's Author Page.



HARPREET S. DUGGAL, MD, FAPA


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