Retreats For Depression Vs Therapy For Depression

Updated December 13, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

People living with depression face more than feelings of sadness. Depression can be overwhelming in itself, so choosing a method of treatment can feel extremely challenging. Some individuals may not know where to turn, or some may feel uncomfortable expressing their desire for help. While roadblocks can prevent individuals from finding and seeking out help, there are many effective and easily accessible options for treating depression. The most well-known option is meeting with a therapist. One of the more unique options is going on a retreat. Retreats can offer a different perspective about how to cope with depression, which can be very helpful, and some individuals may enjoy retreats more than therapy. In this article, we'll look into the benefits of each of these treatment methods – and several others – so you can decide what is best for you.

Wondering About The Difference In Therapy For Depression vs. Retreats?

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The Basics: Therapy Versus Retreats

Many people seek depression help through weekly outpatient talk therapy sessions. Therapy is one of the most common treatments for many mental health disorders and can often work wonders in helping individuals treat their depression and improve their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Therapy is often the first step to treating depression since it has an excellent success rate and is easy to fit into the modern lifestyle. It usually only requires a couple of hours a week, fitting into most busy schedules.

When therapy is not enough, your doctor may recommend other options such as medication or in-patient services. These can be more rigorous, time-consuming, or lifestyle-altering than outpatient therapy but are effective for some individuals experiencing symptoms that require intensive care. Some symptoms that may go beyond the realms of talk therapy include:

  • Depression that is exacerbated by alcohol and drug use
  • Depression caused by eating disorders
  • Chronic sleep deprivation
  • Changes in medications
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychotic or manic episodes

Many people seek out retreats after traditional talk therapy does not alleviate all symptoms. Retreats are much more intensive than talk therapy, as they include full-day care and multi-day stays. While retreats are not particularly common, nor do they fit easily into the modern schedule, they often provide stellar results and high success rates. Since retreats are around-the-clock treatment settings, they can often lead to better outcomes faster than weekly therapy can. Retreats provide spaces for patients to engage with professionals in more ways than traditional therapy offers. Patients can also connect with others who may be going through similar struggles, an option that standard talk therapy does not provide. Many individuals who choose to attend a retreat enjoy the multiple interpersonal relationships they develop.

Overall, the two treatments are similar in terms of success rates and the end goal of helping patients beat depression and prevent further mental health disorders. They are also similar in that they are both facilitated by licensed mental health professionals and include practices based in research that best help those struggling with mental health disorders such as depression. Although the two options differ in how they fit into typical lifestyles and the severity of mental illnesses they treat, both can help a person move forward into a happy, healthy lifestyle.

Which Method Is More Commonly Used?

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide are currently battling depression, making it one of the most common mental health disorders. This statistic shows that you are not alone in your fight, no matter how you choose to handle your depression. Likewise, due to the number of people who struggle with depression and other mental health disorders, treatment is varied and widely available. Many treatments are adaptable to meet an individual’s personal circumstances and needs, so if you choose to look for help, chances are that you will find something that perfectly suits you. While retreats are available if you would like to attend a multi-day, round the clock care experience, therapy is more commonly used to treat depression. This is likely because it's more accessible and easily fits into the modern schedule. However, as mental illness stigma continues to lessen, retreats are becoming more and more popular and are gaining interest.

Types Of Retreats For Depression

Retreats may be more suitable for those who are clinically depressed or experiencing symptoms that have taken over daily life. Retreats often offer an intensive impact quite quickly due to their 24-hour-care experience and may be effective for those who cannot afford to wait the weeks or months that working with a therapist necessitates. There are two types of retreats.


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Depression Retreats

As stated previously, depression retreats offer more for those in need of recovery than regular therapy sessions. Retreats are focused on the care of the whole person and often use tools or strategies that traditional therapy cannot. For example, most retreats have research facilities for trauma, stress, and depression. Retreats are patient-focused and try to tailor programming to each guest, so they can grow to complete capacity while under the care of retreat therapists. Retreats are further personalized based on a patient’s past experiences, personality, and more. Patients have access to support groups, lectures, workshops, healthy and regulated meals, fitness and meditation areas, and acupuncture, in addition to regular meetings with a therapist and 24/7 access to helpful and experienced staff.

Patients keep busy schedules as they learn to be more active and carry out meaningful tasks, both of which are vital actions in depression recovery. Many retreats designate a time when phones and computers will be disabled, allowing patients to relax and focus on being in the present moment. Depression retreats also welcome family members to take part in family therapy so that loved ones can provide the support you need after you leave the retreat., family therapy allows family members to best learn about your specific mental health situation. They can learn the warning signs of recurring depression, as well as tools and mechanisms to help you best treat symptoms. A trained therapist can help both you and your family discuss difficult issues that may influence your depression. For example, if your depression is worsened by feeling excluded and unaccepted in your home and family life, a therapist can help your family learn techniques to alleviate these symptoms. Your family may be unaware of the pain they are causing, so it is a good idea to engage them in the process.

Commercial Retreats

Another choice for people who are experiencing depression is to spend time at a commercial retreat or spa. These types of retreats and spas do not make claims to cure depression, but they may alleviate symptoms and help you learn to cope with troubling issues because they promote relaxing experiences. Many retreats offer equine, fitness, acupuncture, massage, mindfulness, yoga, Thai chi, art, and music therapy as well. All of these therapies have the potential to help those struggling with depression or another mental health disorder. Some commercial retreats can offer trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) therapies and provide expert psychiatric care and medication management for those living with depressive disorders. These retreats are especially helpful for those who have undergone a traumatic event or experience. Professionals in these retreats may teach you how to deal with and overcome your stressors or triggers.

Some retreats and spas teach ancient Tibetan and Indian therapies that use energies for spirituality and calmness, such as Ayurvedic treatments for mind training, control of breathing, and physical movement. These holistic therapies impart relaxation techniques, which can aid in your recovery from depression. Ayurvedic treatments can also include acupuncture, reiki gemstones, body oil massages, and salt and oil scrubs to rejuvenate and restore energy to your body. Other treatments commonly offered include reflexology, infrared and steam treatments, and aromatherapy. Many of these treatments are interrelated to meditation and mindfulness, two things shown to improve depressive symptoms. Engaging in meditation and mindfulness techniques can alleviate stress and depression and allow you to regain a healthy mental state.

Ayurvedic spa programs also teach body types, or "Doshas." Doshas include "Vata," which uses energy, "Pitta," which manages energy, and "Kapha," which stores energy. Each body type represents an imbalance. Once you learn your Ayurvedic body type, you can create a diet and lifestyle plan made to fit your Dosha. Becoming aware of your body and how your mind and body are connected can allow you to better understand your mental health illnesses and, thus, how to best address them.

Users of Ayurveda medicine believe that if the mind is healthy, the body will also be healthy. Ayurvedic treatment includes a variety of products and techniques to cleanse the body of toxins and restore a healthy balance within the body. The object of these treatments is to eliminate negativity to help both your body and your mind heal. Ensuring a healthy mind-body connection is vital for everyone, and Ayurvedic treatment can allow some to reach that conclusion and begin their wellness journey.

Though these commercial retreats are not directly marketed for depression treatment, you can see that many of the relaxation and personal growth aspects they bring to their programs can aid in the fight against depression. The mind and body awareness factors can play a significant role in healing mental illness. While some individuals may feel more comfortable attending a traditional therapy session, retreats can appeal to people looking for an all-encompassing method to overcome and prevent depressive disorders.

Other Treatments For Depression

Therapy can be an extremely beneficial tool for anyone who struggles with mental health disorders. Like retreat programming, therapy can be adapted and personalized to best fit your unique needs. Similarly, there are several types of therapy available to treat various levels and types of depression, and numerous medications that can be prescribed by a doctor to help treat your depression. Below is some information on these effective depression treatments.

SSRI Medications

SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This medication class helps people with mood disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and others. The medication increases the amount of serotonin the patient’s brain produces, which can help to improve their mood. Sometimes, medication is the most effective treatment method for depression, which is caused by low serotonin levels in the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, SSRIs prevent the reabsorption of serotonin, so the brain has what it needs to feel happy and uplifted.

There are several different SSRIs a doctor may prescribe to treat depression. These are citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline. All of these medications have branded and off-brand options. Although therapists cannot prescribe medication, they may refer you to a doctor who can, if you don’t have one already. Please consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options.

Wondering About The Difference In Therapy For Depression vs. Retreats?

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Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy, or what you may know as talk therapy, works by addressing the difficulties in your life that add to your depression. These could be social issues, problems at work, or self-esteem challenges. Talk therapy addresses all of these outside factors and helps individuals to work through them. This type of therapy can also give many people the tools to manage these issues in the future. This way, patients know how to work through any challenges they may face, even when they no longer attend therapy sessions. This can prevent relapses and reduce the need to return to therapy or medication.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) works by addressing both the thoughts and behaviors that add to your depression. In CBT, mental health professionals will study your feelings, emotions, and thoughts and analyze how those are related to your actions. They will make connections between your feelings in a situation and what you do to handle them. Therapists speak with you to pinpoint these challenges and then give you various assignments to learn healthier ways to handle the hard times. This type of therapy is often short-term and focused on helping individuals target and understand how their mental state relates to their physical actions. This can help many people better comprehend and cope with their depressive disorders and offer tools to overcome them.

No matter the type of therapy that ends up working best for you in your fight against depression, a licensed therapist can develop and implement a plan that fits your circumstances. Not only is online therapy convenient, research shows it can play a significant role in reducing depression symptoms. For example, one study found that online therapy was even more effective than traditional in-person sessions, with 100 percent of participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment. On the other hand, individuals in the face-to-face group showed “significantly worsened depressive symptoms” over the same period. This study explores how internet-based treatment compares to regular face-to-face therapy.

If you're looking for a therapist that fits your busy lifestyle or if you have trouble finding the motivation to attend in-person therapy sessions, consider BetterHelp. BetterHelp’s online counselors are available anytime, anywhere, making it extremely convenient to quickly connect with a licensed professional from your phone or computer from the comfort of your own home.  You’ll be connected with a counselor who matches your objectives and preferences and has experience treating the type of issues you are living with. Below you can read some reviews from people like you who have been helped by BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

“Before Brett, I had been trying to work with local counsellors at a local mental health facility and never really felt supported or safe to share what I needed to work through. After my first session with him, he managed to make me feel that it was worth reaching out for help again when I was losing faith in professional help for my mental health. With his help and support, I feel like I've managed to turn the corner and start a new chapter with the tools he introduced me to.”

“I’ve been working with Michelle for only just a few weeks now but her thoughtful advices, personalized approach, understanding of my struggles and even just listening with attention helped me feel and perform better in my day to day life. I’m excited for what’s to come and to continue working with her.”

Moving Forward

Therapy and retreats are both solid choices if you're looking for help in your fight against depression. Choose the option that best suits your life and the challenges that you are currently facing. Either option can help you get back to a healthy and happy life. With the right tools, you will get there. Take the first step today.

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