Psychotherapy to Treat Depression

Introduction

Psychotherapy is often the first form of treatment recommended for depression. Called "therapy" for short, the word psychotherapy actually involves a variety of treatment techniques. During psychotherapy, a person with depression talks to a licensed and trained mental health care professional who helps him or her identify and work through the factors that may be causing their depression.

Sometimes these factors work in combination with heredity or chemical imbalances in the brain to trigger depression. Taking care of the psychological and psychosocial aspects of depression is important.

How Does Psychotherapy Help Depression?

Psychotherapy helps people with depression:

  • Understand the behaviors, emotions, and ideas that contribute to his or her depression.
  • Understand and identify the life problems or events -- like a major illness, a death in the family, a loss of a job or a divorce -- that contribute to their depression and help them understand, which aspects of those problems they may be able to solve or improve.
  • Help to restructure ways of thinking, negative attributes and attitudes someone has about himself, and ways in which faulty thinking may perpetuate depression.
  • Regain a sense of control and pleasure in life.
  • Learn coping techniques and problem-solving skills.

Types of Therapy for Depression

Therapy can be given in a variety of formats, including:

  • Individual: This therapy involves only the patient and the therapist.
  • Group: 2 or more patients may participate in therapy at the same time. Patients are able to share experiences and learn that others feel the same way, and have had the same experiences.
  • Marital/couples: This type of therapy helps spouses and partners understand why their loved one has depression, what changes in communication and behaviors can help, and what they can do to cope.
  • Family: Because family is a key part of the team that helps people with depression get better, it is sometimes helpful for family members to understand what their loved one is going through, how they themselves can cope, and what they can do to help.

Approaches to Therapy

While therapy can be done in different formats -- like family, group, and individual -- there are also several different approaches that mental health professionals can take to provide therapy. After talking with the patient about their depression, the therapist will decide which approach to use based on the suspected underlying factors contributing to the depression.

Psychodynamic Therapy for Depression

Psychodynamic therapy is based on the assumption that a person is depressed because of unresolved, generally unconscious conflicts, often stemming from childhood. The goal of this type of therapy is for the patient to understand and cope better with these feelings by talking about the experiences. Psychodynamic therapy is administered over a period of weeks to months to years.

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What Is Maintenance Therapy for Depression?

While some people only need therapy for short periods of time, people with treatment-resistant depression might need it for longer. This is called maintenance therapy. Studies show that maintenance therapy lowers your risk of relapse. You and your therapist can watch for signs that your depression might be worsening. Over time, you will also learn about the patterns in your life that lead to depression.

If you have treatment-resistant depression, you may have already tried therapy. Maybe you didn't feel like it worked. But it may be time to give it a second chance.

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