When Counseling For Depression Is Necessary

By: Jon Jaehnig

Updated January 12, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley

Everybody gets the blues from time to time, whether because of a setback – romantically, professionally, or personally – or sometimes for no apparent reason at all. This is normal, and quite different from what mental health professionals mean when they say "depression." However, clinical depression is a serious problem, and you don't want to put off getting help if you need it. So how do you know when it's time to reach out?

It's Okay to Reach Out

Everyone feels down from time to time, and anyone can get depression. If you feel depressed for more than a week or two, tell your healthcare provider right away. They will help you find a therapist. There's no risk in reaching out – if you start feeling better, you can choose not to see the therapist. It’s important to know that there is help for you if you need it.

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What Depression Really Is

Depression is not just an emotional state; it is an illness that affects both the mind and body. Symptoms include persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, anxiety, loss of interest in activities, and changes in sleep and appetite. If symptoms like these have persisted for two weeks or more, with little or no let-up, depression might be a likely diagnosis.

If the above describes your current state, it is a good idea to seek help. Treatment for depression can prevent symptoms from worsening and shorten the period of time that you experience depression. Sometimes depression can result from a negative event, a major life change, or a build-up of stress. Other times, it is not possible to pinpoint the reason for someone's change in mood. The tendency toward depression is biological, and a person with depression does not have control of the chemicals in their brain that are contributing to the depressive symptoms.

When your mood is depressed, it can become hard to maintain a normal level of functioning in areas of your life such as work, school, and relationships. If you have noticed that you have difficulty functioning as a result of how you are feeling, it is recommended that you seek treatment. Thoughts of suicide can also occur with depression, and if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, it is important that you seek professional help immediately. It is also important to remember that there is no shame in seeking help, and that approximately 9 percent of women and 5 percent of men have depression.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

Treatment Options – Medications

There are several kinds of medications available for depression. One class of medications is called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs). SSRIs work by preventing your body from reabsorbing a chemical messenger called serotonin before the brain has a chance to use it. SSRIs allow your body to use its own naturally occurring serotonin. Further, by acting on only specific serotonin reuptake points, this newer class of antidepressants has fewer and milder side effects than older kinds of antidepressants.

Medication is a useful tool in treating depression, especially as part of a broader strategy that includes depression counseling. However, there is no medication that can completely prevent depression from reoccurring, so medication should be just one part of a larger treatment program. If you are taking medication, it is important that you follow your prescriber's instructions. Most antidepressant medications take several weeks to show effectiveness.

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Medications for depression require a prescription. To get a prescription for an antidepressant, you will need a diagnosis of depression or a related condition by a doctor. This may be your primary care provider (PCP) or a psychiatrist.

Please consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options.

Treatment Options – Talk Therapy

Counseling by a qualified therapist is an effective treatment for depression, particularly when depression is the result of adverse life events. Such events include losing a loved one, losing a job, or even moving to a new place. If you see a therapist for depression, they will likely speak to you about some of the following topics:

  • Providing education about the causes of depression so that you can lessen the chances of experiencing future episodes.
  • Identifying depressive thinking patterns, so that you can counter negative thoughts and think more realistically.
  • Identifying things in your life that have helped keep your mood positive, and encouraging you to reengage in healthy activities.
  • Identifying methods to deal with behaviors that have been unhealthy for you, such as isolation or use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Teaching healthy methods of handling negative thoughts, emotions, and stressors.
  • Talking effectively with the people in your life about what you are experiencing.
  • Identifying your personal depression warning signs so you can recognize them earlier in the future, and helping you create a plan to decrease the chances of another depressive episode.

Depression can affect a person's ability to solve problems. It impacts concentration, makes it difficult to see problems realistically, lowers energy levels, and is so overwhelming in itself that other aspects of life are often ignored. Working with a counselor can help you to problem-solve during this difficult time. There is strong evidence showing how therapy can be an effective solution for treating depression. 

Treatment Options – Combined Approaches

Research shows that people with depression feel better faster when treatment includes both medication and counseling. This is because antidepressants change your brain chemistry in a way that makes you more receptive to talk therapy. Further, if you are taking antidepressants, your therapist can help you understand and manage their effects and side effects.

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Other Tools to Treat Depression

When you have healthy physical habits that improve your general health, such as proper diet and exercise, depression can be either prevented or improved for most people. Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, and breath work have also been shown to reduce stress and improve mood and concentration. Setting healthy boundaries with people in your life can also be helpful. It is important to establish a regular sleep schedule and also to spend time outdoors as sunlight provides Vitamin D, an important nutrient your brain needs to function.

While it might not feel like the right time to begin something new, it is helpful to set some small and realistic goals. Consider getting involved, even in a small way, in a volunteer organization as helping others has been shown to positively influence how we feel about ourselves. In addition, depression is associated with other mental and physical health problems, such as anxiety, poor cardiovascular health, or an underactive thyroid gland. Addressing one problem might be effective at alleviating the others.

Finding Help with Online Therapy

If you do get a diagnosis of depression, your PCP can help you find a therapist in your area, and you may be able to use your health insurance to pay for therapy. Without a diagnosis, you can still get the help of a therapist, but therapy will not be covered by insurance. Often, online therapy is more affordable and convenient than in-person therapy.

Online therapy has also been proven to be slightly better than face-to-face therapy regarding cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT). In a literature review of 17 studies on the effectiveness of online CBT or eCBT when contrasted with traditional therapy, it was found that eCBT was better at reducing the symptoms of depression. It was also noted that eCBT could be less expensive than face-to-face therapy. Online therapy for CBT can also be used for other mental health conditions. People with PTSD and anxiety have found relief through this type of treatment.

How BetterHelp Can Support You

Finding time to get started with therapy can prevent us from seeking the help we need to deal with depression. At BetterHelp, you can get matched with one of our online licensed therapists right away. Your therapist will have the training and expertise to help you manage your depressive symptoms, so you can get back to feeling healthier. You can meet with your therapist anywhere you have an internet connection and at a time that fits into your schedule. For more information on how online therapy can help you manage your feelings of depression, read the following reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

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Counselor Reviews

"Dr. C has been incredibly helpful for me, and has been a crucial part in the personal journey I have been on this last year. I highly recommend her for anyone else struggling with depression or generally trying to make healthier choices in life, she has been a great guidance for me."

"Diane has been a huge help for me in overcoming my anxiety and depression. She is understanding and offers a variety of ways to improve my perceptions, and how to work through my problems in real life. I can't recommend her enough!"

Moving Past Depression

If you've been experiencing the symptoms of depression for longer than a couple of weeks, you will want to learn as much about its symptoms and treatment as you can. The good news is that it is a treatable condition, and seeking professional counseling is often the first step on the road to regaining your mental and physical health. A truly fulfilling life is possible – all you need are the right tools and a little help getting there. Take the first step today.


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