Tae Kwon Do as a treatment for adult depression: A program design

Joe G. Clemens (2004)

Depression is a chronic illness that affects approximately 18.8 million Americans (9.5% of the United States population) each year (National Institute of Mental Health, 2004). Treatments for depression have typically included psychotherapy and pharmacological interventions (Johnson & Miller 1994; Preskorn, 1999). These treatments, however, are often expensive and may have adverse side effects (Byrne & Byrne, 1993; Leith, 1994). As a result, clinicians and researchers have begun to investigate possible alternatives in the treatment of this disorder (Craft, 2003). Current literature suggests that interventions such as physical exercise (i.e., Craft, 2003), mindfulness meditation (i.e., Baer, 2003), and martial arts (i.e., Weiser, M., Kutz, I., Kutz, S. J., & Weiser, D., 1995) produce physiological and psychological benefits that may be useful in the treatment of depression. The philosophy and practice of Tae Kwon Do is a martial art that specifically integrates mindfulness meditation and exercise. Further, it enjoys increasing popularity, is widely available, and is cost effective. Today, with more than 30 million practitioners in 163 countries, Tae Kwon Do has earned the distinction of being recognized as the most widely practiced martial art system in the world (Park, Park, & Gerrard, 1999). This dissertation project is a specifically designed program for use of Tae Kwon Do as a treatment model for depression. It is designed to provide a highly accessible treatment approach to depression. This proposed treatment program design would allow individuals to participate in a 12-week long program located at a martial arts school that teaches traditional Tae Kwon Do. Participants would be individuals who are currently being treated for depression at a suburban community mental health center. This treatment approach may be used either as an alternative or adjunct therapy for existing traditional treatment models. This dissertation project includes a means of evaluating the program's effectiveness and it concludes with a discussion of applications and future directions.