What Types of Therapy Are Helpful For Depression?

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Depression is a potentially debilitating mental health disorder. It’s also one of the most common. The CDC states almost 5% of adults report suffering from depression each year. However, cases may be underreported. Other sources place the actual number of individuals living with the disorder much higher. 

There is good news: depression is highly treatable. Each year we continue to learn more about mental health disorders and effective methods for treating them. Therapy is one such depression treatment.

Therapists use a range of therapeutic techniques to help their patients overcome depression. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps an individual identify and change negative thoughts and associated behaviors.

People who suffer from depression often struggle with negative thought patterns. These thought patterns can influence our behavior. In turn, behavior reinforces the thought patterns. This creates a continual cycle of negative thoughts and depressed mood.

In many cases, our thought patterns are partly a result of our core beliefs. Therapists who use CBT help patients identify their core beliefs, address the negative thoughts that arise from them, and adjust their behavior accordingly. 

How Effective is CBT For Treating Depression?

There have been many studies that show CBT is an effective treatment for depression. 

One study found that CBT was as effective as antidepressant medications in treating patients with depression. The same study also found that patients who completed the full course of CBT sessions were less likely to experience a relapse of their depression symptoms after treatment than those who received only medication.

Another recent study found that patients treated with CBT showed a marked improvement in their depression symptoms.

However, it’s important to note that some studies do find mixed results, and patients with the most severe symptoms also typically show the most improvement from therapy. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy is very similar to CBT. In fact, many of its techniques are based on it. However, DBT differs in that it teaches patients to identify, accept, and regulate their emotions. 

As the name implies, DBT helps patients engage in a “dialogue” with their emotions and behaviors. Patients are taught to challenge the contradictions in the attitudes and emotions that are preventing them from making positive changes in their life. 

In other words, an individual learns to “talk back to” negative and self-defeating thoughts. During this process, they can begin to replace these thoughts and behaviors with positive ones.

DBT And Depression Treatment

DBT offers many benefits in treating depression. Studies have supported these benefits. 

One study, published in a 2016 issue of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, reported an “improvement in depressive symptoms for adolescents following a course of DBT.” Additional studies show similar improvements for adults and even for the elderly.

Behavioral Activation (BA)

Behavioral activation shares similarities with both CBT and DBT. Like these other types of therapy, BA focuses on a patient’s thoughts and behaviors. 

Often, behavioral activation is used in conjunction with other therapeutic techniques to treat depression. BA helps patients adopt a long-term coping strategy by identifying specific goals and working toward meeting them.

When a person is depressed, they may try to avoid certain activities like social events. Therapists use behavioral activation to build positive reinforcement and help patients create an action plan to help them overcome avoidant behaviors. 

The patient becomes increasingly confident and begins striving to meet realistic goals. As a result, a sense of positivity and accomplishment is reinforced. In turn, individuals begin to overcome depressive thoughts and behaviors. 

Is Behavioral Activation Effective For Depression?

Behavioral activation is rarely used on its own. It’s more likely to be used alongside other therapeutic techniques as part of a holistic treatment plan.

However, on its own, BA has been shown to help patients with mild to moderate levels of depression. Though, study authors note that the best results nonetheless come from a full-scale treatment.

It’s also important to note that behavioral activation is a relatively new therapy. This has led some studies to conclude more research must be done before the true efficacy of behavioral activation can be reported.

Problem-Solving Therapy (PST)

Problem-solving therapy is a therapeutic technique that helps individuals cope with life stressors that negatively impact their mental health.

We all experience stress, but major life stressors or chronic stress can take a heavy toll on our mental health. PST is designed to help people struggling with depression or anxiety identify and manage those stressors. 

In practice, PST builds off of established techniques like adaptive problem-solving and mindfulness to help patients better understand and cope with stress. PST also helps patients to more effectively process negative emotions that can occur when we experience difficulties, like the loss of our job or the death of a loved one. 

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) For Depression

Interpersonal therapy was developed to help treat depression in adults. However, it has been increasingly used to treat other mental health disorders, as well. 

IPT aims to help patients with mild to moderate depression address problems with interpersonal connections and improve relationships. Similar to problem-solving therapy, the focus of IPT is the patient’s actions and reactions. 

Generally, IPT is time-limited, meaning treatment may only last for around 20 sessions. The length can vary based on the patient and their needs. During this time, the therapist and patient: 

  • Identify important interpersonal relationships in the patient’s life
  • Address how these relationships affect their mental wellbeing
  • Develop skills and strategies to improve these relationships

Studies have shown that IPT can have a positive impact for people suffering from depression. Although IPT may be more effective when incorporated into other forms of therapy, like CBT.

How Long Does Therapy Take For Treating Depression?

Each individual and their symptoms are different. Likewise, the treatment for their depression will vary based on their needs. In short, there’s no one-size-fits all approach to therapy or mental health treatment. However, the American Psychological Association states, “on average 15 to 20 sessions are required for 50 percent of patients to recover as indicated by self-reported symptom measures.”

The length of time a patient requires therapy to help treat their depression will depend on a number of factors:

  • Severity of depression and symptoms 
  • Co-occurring disorders (such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse)
  • Patient adherence to therapy and treatment 
  • Frequency of therapy sessions 

These are only some of the factors that can impact the effectiveness of therapy.

Is Therapy or Medication Better For Depression?

Every patient is unique. As such, it’s important to tailor treatment to the individual. Antidepressant medications have proven to be effective for individuals with moderate to severe depression. Likewise, therapy has been shown to be as effective as medication for some patients.

However, the reality is many patients with severe or chronic depression will benefit most from a combination of therapy and an antidepressant medicine. The challenge is finding the right medication and the right balance between treatments. 

For this reason, people with more severe depression should work with their doctor and a team of licensed mental health professionals to develop a complete treatment plan.

It’s important to understand that recovery from any mental health disorder takes time. Therapy can last for many months, while finding the right medication can take several attempts.

Get Help For Depression From An Experienced Team 

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, it’s important that you find the right level of care. At High Focus Centers, our team is composed of licensed mental healthcare professionals with experience treating a range of disorders.

If you’re searching for help with depression, contact our staff online or call us by phone at (877) 792-6430.