What kind of therapist should I see for depression?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & crisis lifeline at 988. Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions worldwide. Due to its prevalence, there are hundreds of treatment modalities available for this condition and others. However, having many options available can be overwhelming for some, causing confusion about which could be most helpful.  

If you are starting to explore your treatment options for depression, you are not alone, and there are resources to assist you. It may be helpful to start with a better understanding of the condition and the therapy and treatment options available.
Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Address depressive symptoms with a compassionate professional

What is depression?

Depression is a serious mood disorder characterized by a persistent low mood and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. Depression can be an umbrella term for all depressive disorders but is often used in reference to major depression, officially called major depressive disorder.

Other depressive disorders may include persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and perinatal depression. All depressive disorders have one characteristic in common: a persistent and chronic sadness or hopelessness lasting for a specific prolonged period.

Depression is more than feeling sad or having “the blues.” Depressive disorders encompass many physical and emotional symptoms that can negatively impact a person’s ability to function in their daily life. Depression can affect different people differently, and not everyone with depression will experience all the symptoms listed in the DSM-5 for depressive disorders. 

Physical and behavioral symptoms of depression

Below are some of the most common behavioral symptoms of depression: 

  • A sense of fatigue or exhaustion
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering events or conversations, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual 
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Lower energy levels and lethargy 
  • Achiness or sharp pains without an explanation
  • Agitation
  • Decreased speed of movement and speech
  • Isolation
  • Avoidance of personal responsibilities
  • Neglect of previously close relationships with family and friends
  • New or increased substance use
  • Decreased levels of attention paid to personal hygiene 
  • Missing work or school
  • Restlessness or nervous behaviors
  • Self-harming
  • Self-destructive behaviors

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.


Emotional symptoms of depression

Below are a few of the common emotional or mood-related symptoms of depression: 

  • Feeling hopelessness, sadness, emptiness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Ongoing negative thoughts about oneself, others, or the world
  • Persistent sensitivity to criticism
  • Irritability and anger 
  • A bleak outlook toward the future
  • Tendency to blame oneself 
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • A single-minded focus on past mistakes and embarrassment
  • A sense that one’s life cannot improve 
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that once brought joy
  • Internalizing critiques from other people
  • Persistent thoughts of death, hurting oneself, or suicide

What kind of therapist should I see for depression? 

Depression can cause several overwhelming symptoms. Some may believe these symptoms signify a lack of hope for the future. However, depression is treatable, and many evidence-based treatment options are available. The American Psychological Association’s Clinical Practice Guideline recommends seven psychotherapy interventions for treating depression in adults, including the following: 

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Supportive therapy

For depression, two of the most widely used evidence-based approaches are CBT and IPT, so it may be helpful to look more at those modalities. If a particular treatment seems like it would work best for you and your circumstances, consider consulting with some providers with experience in those modalities. 

CBT therapists

According to studies, over 50% of therapists are trained in providing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is considered by many medical and mental health professionals to be the current gold standard in psychotherapy for a wide range of conditions, including depression. 

CBT focuses on negative or maladaptive thought patterns a person may be experiencing and the relationship between those thought patterns and their subsequent behaviors. This approach hinges on the idea that shifting unhealthy thoughts can result in automatic improvemens in emotions as well as behavioral improvements and a greater sense of overall well-being. 

A therapist trained in CBT techniques may work with you on implementing activities in your life that help you better understand your thoughts and adjust your behaviors, such as journaling, mindfulness, and behavior reward practices.

IPT therapists

The other type of therapeutic technique commonly used to address depression symptoms is interpersonal therapy (IPT). Therapists trained in IPT can work with you on the interpersonal relationships and social connections in your life based on the understanding that your social network can play a significant role in managing mood disorders like depression.

IPT explores the connections between a person’s mood and their life as a whole, taking note of any impactful life situations or changes, such as starting a new job, ending an intimate relationship, moving to a new location, or losing someone close to them. 

In doing IPT work, you may talk to your therapist about ways to develop interpersonal skills and communication to build a stronger network of social support that may help you cope with depressive symptoms. Through interpersonal therapy, you can better understand how you relate to others and how those relationships can impact your mental health. 

Do I need to see a doctor for my depression?

In some cases, medication may be considered for depression treatment. The most effective treatment option for depression can vary from one person to the next, and for some people, the combination of therapy and antidepressant medications is most effective. In these cases, you can speak with a medical professional who can prescribe medications to determine what might work best for you. 

Meeting with a doctor or psychiatrist to discuss prescription medication for your depression can involve a discussion of your medical history and any other health concerns. However, note that prescription medication may not be necessary to treat depression in every case. Some people use it temporarily to regulate their mood while going to therapy. Consult a doctor or psychiatrist before starting, changing, or stopping any medication.  

Address depressive symptoms with a compassionate professional

Online support for depression

Regardless of what treatment you think will be best for you and your experience with depression, it can be essential to connect with a licensed and qualified therapist. 

If you are experiencing common depression symptoms like lethargy and exhaustion, it may be overwhelming to think about leaving the house to attend in-person therapy appointments. If this is your experience, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp may be more approachable, as it allows you to meet with your therapist wherever you have internet, including the comfort of home. 

Research has shown that online therapy can be an effective treatment option for many mental health conditions, including depression. One such study demonstrated that online CBT was associated with significant improvements in levels of depression, anxiety, and distress.


If you are experiencing depression and don’t know where to start when seeking out treatment options, it may be helpful to narrow down what kind of therapist you are looking for to address your depression symptoms. 

Therapists can specialize in a range of therapeutic techniques, from cognitive-behavioral therapy to interpersonal psychotherapy and more. Online therapy may be a beneficial option for you if you want to receive treatment without leaving the house.

Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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