Depression is a severe mood disorder affecting 17 million U.S. adults annually. Depression impacts how you think, feel, interact with people, and go about your daily life. It can generate feelings of sadness or loss of interest in things you once loved. It can happen to anyone, at any age – but it generally begins in adulthood.
The positive news is that depression is highly treatable, with reports that 80 to 90 percent of people respond positively to treatment. One of the reasons why the treatment works is that improvements in medication, psychotherapy, etc., can be found in a combination of the two. Finding the right psychotherapist to help you understand and address the underlying causes of depression and develop coping strategies for dealing with symptoms is often the first step in making you feel better.
Types of Depression
Diagnosing depression requires an evaluation process involving a doctor or psychotherapist. Generally, to diagnose depression, symptoms must last for at least two weeks.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (commonly referred to as the DSM-5) defines several types of depression, including but not limited to major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder. There are also specifiers for major depressive disorder, such as seasonal major depressive disorder (previously called seasonal affective disorder) or perinatal-onset major depressive disorder (also known as postpartum depression).
Depression is usually treated with antidepressants, therapies, or a combination. There are different types of antidepressants. Finding the right doctor for you may take some time, so working closely with your doctor during this time is vital. Even with the proper medications, it usually takes a while to notice an improvement.
Treating depression with therapy or psychotherapy has been shown to help with both short- and long-term depression. As with medicines, there are different treatments and specialists. Some common evidence-based approaches include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, and problem-solving therapy.
Counseling and Psychotherapy
Treating depression with “talk therapy” is usually the first step in mild to moderate depression. Many experts take this route before trying a drug. When depression is more severe, medication is often required, and treatment and medication can be administered simultaneously. Before proceeding, it is crucial to understand the difference between counseling and psychotherapy.
The terms “psychotherapy” and “counseling” are often used interchangeably. Although the two are very similar, it’s important to note that psychotherapy with a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist (an M.D.) is sometimes seen as a long-term approach focusing on depression and your life. (Deeper issues with significant implications.) Conversely, counseling is a short-term treatment that may focus more on mild to moderate symptoms, external functioning, and behavior.
The length and severity of symptoms and depressive episodes often determine the type of treatment. If you are chronically depressed and have severe symptoms, you may need to work with a psychiatrist or psychologist, as they are more concerned with past issues that may be deeply rooted in your current feelings. However, if the symptoms are recent or less severe, it may be helpful to work with a therapist in a counseling relationship.
During the consultation, the therapist may use talk therapy to help you understand and resolve issues negatively affecting your life. Your job may be to listen, provide feedback, and work with developing coping strategies. They may also assess your progress and adjust the course accordingly. You may be asked to do homework to expand on what you have learned from counseling sessions. This usually takes the form of mood and mood tracking.
With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist can help you change negative thoughts that can make your depressive symptoms worse. The focus is on goal orientation, and you play an active role as a patient.
Because Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is generally considered a short-term treatment, it is often the therapist’s first choice when treating cases of mild to moderate depression that may not require long-term, intensive psychotherapy. There is evidence that CBT works well for counseling depression. It has also been shown to reduce rates of relapse after counseling.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is another short-term or short-term approach to depression counseling that focuses on interpersonal conflict and poor social support that can lead to feelings of depression. This treatment can help you communicate and address issues that make depressive symptoms worse. There is evidence that IPT is effective in treating acute depression and may help prevent new depression.
Other Treatment Options
Some other treatment modalities may be worth considering. For more severe and refractory cases of depression, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) may be helpful. Some supplements and alternatives provide additional benefits.
How to Find a Consultant
Finding the right counselor, psychologist, or mental health professional takes time. In depression counseling, the relationship between the patient and counselor is critical to treatment success. It’s essential to be patient and open to the process. You may find that you have to meet a few people before you find someone with whom you can form the best job alliance.
If you’re unsure where to look, your doctor is an excellent place to start. You can also contact mental health agencies in your area. While they may not be able to provide the services you need, they may know a counselor who offers depression treatment in your area.
Finally, spend some time researching experts in your area. Read their resumes online. Send an email asking for more information about their treatment preferences and how they interact with clients. Many therapists offer free orientation sessions to see if it’s a good fit. Find out if they offer a free trial course and give it a try.
Another form of counseling that should be considered, especially for mild depression, is online therapy. The popularity of online treatment has increased in recent years and has accelerated significantly in the current pandemic. There are online resources and applications that provide support through desktop or mobile applications, including one-on-one meetings and other mental health resources to help you address depression-related issues and develop and practice coping skills.
Living with depression can sometimes feel overwhelming. Working with a mental health professional in a therapeutic relationship provides a safe environment to identify patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to your symptoms. Counseling can also help you learn new coping skills and techniques to manage symptoms better.
Short-term counseling, which usually lasts less than six months, is generally reserved for mild to moderate depression. Talk to your doctor about a referral if you feel you could benefit from depression counseling. Finding someone you trust and feel comfortable with is critical to the success of the counseling process.