How Counseling For Depression Could Improve Your Life
Over 280 million people worldwide are diagnosed with depression, and over 64% of Americans receive treatment for their symptoms. Asking for help can be challenging due to mental health stigmas and myths, but more individuals than ever before are reaching out for support from therpists, counselors, and other mental health care providers.
What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?
Despite how common it is, there are parts of depression that may not be understood by everyone, including those living with the condition. Part of that may be due to how the term is used in media and society.
Although people may use the term “depressed’ when a disappointment occurs in their lives, depression is more than disappointment or sadness. When two uses of the word become conflated, people may make inaccurate assumptions about what depression means.
Depression is a term to describe depressive disorders, which are serious and real mental illnesses. There are several depressive disorders, including persistent depressive disorder, bipolor disorder, and seasonal affective disorder, with major depressive disorder (MDD) being the most prevalent. According the National Institute for Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association, major depression and other forms of depression may come with the following symptoms:
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Feeling guilty without a discernible reason
- Isolation or loneliness
- A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies
- Unusual fatigue, headaches, or physical pains
- A loss of libido
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Suicidal thoughts*
*If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.
If you’re experiencing symptoms from the above list, you might benefit from reaching out to a depression therapist. If your experiences last for at least two weeks or longer and cause functioning difficulties in your daily life, you may be living with depression. There is a link between depression and substance abuse or substance use disorders and drinking alcohol or using drugs may make depression worse. Depression symptoms, whether a major depressive episode or more moderate depression symptoms, can be challenging to face independently, but you don’t have to. Therapy is available.
What Is Depression Therapy?
Treating depression of any degree is serious. That’s why some people have dedicated their careers to helping individuals through the struggles of mental illness. Depression counseling sessions allow individuals to connect with a licensed mental health provider to discuss their symptoms and develop a treatment plan. It is important to note that only licensed psychiatrists may prescribe antidepressant medications and a therapist or counselor may not.
One of the benefits of finding a counselor is that several different approaches have been proven to treat or help clients manage depressive symptoms. One such approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, which has proven to be one of the most effective and widely-used approaches to handling common conditions like depression or anxiety.
However, CBT is not the only approach, and there are hundreds of therapy modalities to choose from including interpersonal therapy, supportive therapy, and acceptance commitment therapy. Finding a counselor is not a shortcut but can be the first significant step in feeling better. At times, the first counselor you see may not be a fit. However, many people change therapists a few times before finding a match. It can be normal to take your time and ask questions before settling on a professional.
How Depression Therapy Can Benefit You
There are several benefits of depression counseling that you might notice when signing up for talk therapy, including the following.
Depression Counseling Addresses Unwanted Thoughts And Behaviors
Those experiencing depression may experience frequent cognitive distortions, which are unhelpful negative thinking patterns that can cause distress and worsen symptoms. Certain types of therapy, like CBT, can help clients challenge these thought patterns and replace them with helpful ones while learning unique coping strategies and activities they can use at home. Other types of therapy can also offer unique forms of advice, coping skills, and techniques are not limited to cognitive or behavioral theories.
Depression Counseling Provides Non-Judgmental Support
Depression counseling can be solution-oriented and avoids placing blame on any one individual for symptoms. If you feel trapped by your depression, knowing how to find a way out without support can be challenging. Counselors specialize in taking an objective viewpoint of their client’s experiences with depression and can offer actionable advice proven to help individuals with this condition make changes. In addition, due to ethical guidelines, these providers often take a non-judgmental and non-biased approach, which may make it easier to talk about depression and behaviors for those who abuse alcohol or use drugs.
You Can Receive A Personalized Approach
Counseling isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Although many standard techniques are used for depression, like CBT, the actual specificities of those practices may vary. Having a counselor means taking part in your own healing journey with the goal of finding the best strategies for you.
You Can Improve Your Mood Through Lifestyle Changes
Depression therapy often offers clients suggestions for lifestyle changes to improve their mood. With depression, a low mood can be one of the most distressing symptoms for many. Lifestyle changes have been found to have scientific benefits that change brain chemistry, physically causing endorphins (happy chemicals) and neurotransmitters to release in the brain and body. A few changes your counselor might suggest can include the following:
- Spending time in nature
- Exercising for 10 to 30 minutes a day
- Creating art
- Listening to music
- Meditating or practicing mindfulness
- Writing in a journal or creating a memoir
- Writing poetry
- Talking to friends and family members
- Partaking in a repetitive activity, like diamond painting
Considering support is the first step to receiving it. If a small part of you is considering counseling, it may be beneficial to try. You can change your therapist or treatment options as needed, and therapy is personalized to your needs. In addition, if you face barriers to standard in-person therapy, you can try alternative formats like online counseling, which can be more reachable and cost-effective for many. If a family member or loved one is experiencing depression and it is impacting your relationship or causing interpersonal conflict, family therapy is available.
Online therapy provides networks of professionals that are available to offer support, and multiple studies have backed up its efficacy, showing that it can be as effective or more effective than traditional counseling. Through an online platform, you can specify your preference to meet with a depression therapist and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. If you struggle to leave home on challenging days, you can meet with a therapist from your bed or couch.
Those looking to get started immediately can sign up with a platform like BetterHelp, which offers a quick sign-up process and a matching process that is often under 48 hours. Once you get matched with a therapist, you can discuss your concerns and create a treatment plan, often in the same week.
Living with depression can be challenging, and there may not be shortcuts to feeling better. However, deciding to reach out to a therapist can have a multitude of benefits. You’re not alone, and a counselor can be a compassionate and constant voice in your life as you learn to manage your symptoms. Consider contacting a therapist online or in your area to gain further insight into how these professionals can serve you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are several frequently asked questions on the topic of depression.
What Type Of Therapy Is Used For Depression?
Many types of talk therapy can be beneficial for people struggling with depression. One of the most common and effective therapeutic methods is cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, other effective forms can include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and person-centered therapy.
What Are The Four Types Of Depression?
Depression can be categorized in several ways. It can be sorted as situational, biological, psychological, or existential. However, Harvard Health identifies the four main types of depression as the following:
- Major depression
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Bipolar depression (part of bipolar disorder)
- Seasonal affective disorder
There are also types of depression that may only occur in those with a gynecological reproductive system, such as perinatal depression and premenstrual depressive disorder (PMDD). Post-partum depression is a type of perinatal depression, but perinatal can also include depression during pregnancy.
Can Therapy Be Bad For You?
Talk therapy is often effective in treating depression. However, a National Institute published a study that identifies three situations in which psychotherapy may have adverse effects, including therapist reluctance, a lack of knowledge of adverse impacts, and setting clients up for disappointment.
Working with a licensed professional knowledgeable about psychotherapy and depression may help clients avoid these impacts. Ethical and healthy therapists commit to life-long learning.
How Do You Know You Need Counseling?
If you feel you need counseling, there may be a reason, even if you can’t identify it. Consider having an intake session so a professional can help you assess your mental health and decide if therapy is right for you.
If you want to be sure before you proceed, consider the following warning signs of mental illness listed by the American Psychiatric Association. This psychiatric association suggests that if you have several of these symptoms, it may benefit you to seek help from a mental health provider:
- Significant changes in sleep or appetite
- Dramatic changes in your mood
- Withdrawal from social contact or a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Difficulty functioning at work, school, or in social situations
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, or remembering
- Feeling more sensitive than usual
- Feeling apathetic or bored
- Feeling disconnected from yourself and others
- Thinking illogically or having exaggerated beliefs
- Feeling nervous, fearful, or suspicious
- Behaving in ways that are much different from your usual behavior
- Seeing or hearing what others do not see or hear
What Are The Four Types Of Talk Therapy?
The four main types of talk therapy include:
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Humanistic therapy
Other popular types of therapy include:
- Interpersonal therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Online therapy
How Can You Avoid Mental Illness?
You may not be able to avoid mental health conditions altogether. The causes of mental illness can vary, and some causes can be biological, genetic, or caused by childhood experiences. However, there are several ways to decrease your vulnerability to mental health problems, including the following:
- Avoid substance use*
- Eat healthy foods
- Practice sleep hygiene
- Get plenty of exercise
- Build a solid social support network
- Learn stress management techniques
- Express your feelings through activities like journaling, art, or music
- Consider joining support groups
- Engage in activities you enjoy
- Keep a schedule to provide yourself with some structure
*If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Does Talk Therapy Work?
Yes, psychotherapy can work to change the way you think about yourself, others, and the world around you. Treating depression with therapy has been proven effective by multiple studies. For example, one review of studies found that interpersonal therapy was more effective than a placebo and as effective for depression as medication.
Short-term therapy can also provide substantial benefits and do so quickly. However, in some cases, you might benefit from staying in therapy for longer to receive the full benefit. In addition, American psychiatric experts say psychotherapy is effective alone for treating mild depression. If you’re experiencing treatment-resistant depression, you may benefit from medication or an alternative treatment, such as magnetic resonance.
Note that BetterHelp does not offer medication prescription, management, or advice. Reach out to a medical doctor before starting, changing, or stopping any medication.
Do Plants Help With Depression?
Plants may not treat your depression. Treating depression often requires psychological treatment, medication, or other types of intervention. However, plants may provide a mood boost or support in the following ways:
- Some plants are used as herbal remedies for depression.
- Taking care of plants can provide structure to your life.
- Being in a more natural environment can lift your mood.
- Eating a diet from plant sources, such as fruits and vegetables, can improve your physical health, which boosts your mental well-being.
What Should You Not Say To A Depressed Person?
Below are a few statements to not say to someone experiencing depression:
- “Your problems are all in your head.”
- “Things could be worse.”
- “You always seem happy.”
- “Cheer up!”
- “All you need is a little rest.”
- “You’re not depressed.”
- “Just drink a cup of herbal tea.”
- “You’re no different from anyone else. Everyone feels that way sometimes.”
- “Look on the bright side.”
- “You’re just trying to get attention.”
Be careful and critical about what you say. Your words can be painful for someone going through a difficult time. Instead of saying unkind messages, consider validating the individual’s experiences and offering support in every way possible. A few validating phrases you can say when someone is expressing their symptoms to you include the following:
- “My heart is with you.”
- “I am always here for you, no matter what.”
- “Do you want me to go with you to sign up for therapy?”
- “How can I best support you in this?”
- “What do you need right now?”
- “Is there any way I can be more supportive of you?”
- “I hear that you’re feeling depressed. That must be so difficult. How can I help?”
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