When Counseling For Depression Is Necessary

Medically reviewed by Krista Klund, LCSW
Updated June 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Everyone may feel sad at times, whether because of a romantic or professional setback or for no apparent reason. Feeling sad can be normal, as it is a human emotion that may be alleviated through depression self help or counseling.

Clinical depression is a diagnosable mental health condition that often requires treatment to be managed. If you're experiencing symptoms of depression, knowing when to ask for support can be valuable in reducing the severity of your symptoms. Mental health professionals can help you treat depression effectively through various therapeutic modalities, such as family therapy.

If you experience depressive symptoms for at least two weeks, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. They may consider utilizing the mental health services that are available to you. Your primary care provider can support you in finding a licensed psychologist or specialist. There's often no risk in reaching out for effective treatments. If you start feeling better once you find a counselor, you can choose not to continue therapy sessions. Online counseling for depression is an option if you want to address negative thinking and life stressors from the comfort of your own home. Below, we’re discussing how therapy and other mental health services can help people with depression best address their symptoms.

You don’t have to face depression alone

What is depression? 

Depression is not just an emotional state; it is a mental health condition that affects the mind and body, impacting over 280 million people worldwide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), various factors contribute to an increased risk of developing depression, including genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

Depression symptoms can include:
  • Persistent sadness 
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or low self-esteem  
  • Fatigue 
  • Anxiety 
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities 
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in weight or appetite 
  • Intense boredom 
  • Physical pain or inflammation
  • Suicidal thoughts*

If you relate to the above symptoms of a depressive episode, seeking mental health treatment may be rewarding. Treatment for depression could prevent symptoms from worsening and shorten the period that you experience depression. 

At times, depression may result from an adverse event, a significant life change, or a build-up of stress. Other times, the reason may not be apparent. The tendency toward major depressive disorder is biological, and a person with mental illness does not have control of the chemicals in their brain contributing to their diagnosis. Depression can also physically change the brain. Those who have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder may also be at increased risk of developing a depressive disorder.

When you are experiencing depressive symptoms, it may feel challenging to maintain your previous levels of functioning. If you have noticed difficulty functioning due to mental or physical health concerns, consider seeking treatment. Thoughts of suicide are one of the severe symptoms of a major depressive episode. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, seek professional help immediately.

Substance use and depression 

Depression may lead to substance use in some cases. Individuals may utilize substances like alcohol to attempt to self-medicate symptoms of their condition. The American Psychiatric Association says that "the identification of two distinct disorders that are present in the same person at the same time, for example, the coexistence of depression and a substance dependence disorder," is a dual diagnosis. 

You can find more information on substance use on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website. You can also learn more about the connection between substance use and mental health conditions on the National Alliance of Mental Health website.

Medication for depression 

How to stop being depressed? There are several types of antidepressant medications that may be prescribed to treat symptoms of depression. One class of medications is called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs work by preventing your body from reabsorbing a chemical messenger called serotonin before the brain has a chance to use it. Antidepressant medication like SSRIs may allow your body to use its naturally occurring serotonin. Further, by acting on specific serotonin reuptake points, this newer class of antidepressants may have fewer and milder side effects than older antidepressants.

Medication can be a valuable tool in treating mild to moderate depression when used alongside therapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy. However, no medication may prevent depression from reoccurring, and medication may stop being effective with time. If you are taking medication, follow your prescriber's instructions. Do not stop, change, or start a medication without medical permission and counsel. 

Medications for depression require a prescription. To get a prescription for an antidepressant, you may need a diagnosis of depression or a related condition by a doctor. This doctor may be your primary care provider (PCP) or a psychiatrist, who can assess common mental disorders. Please consult your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options as they can guide you in overcoming depression and managing the condition effectively.


Talk therapy for depression 

Counseling by a qualified therapist could be an effective treatment for depression. Studies show that standard therapy methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy are effective in treating symptoms. If you see a therapist to discuss depression, you may be asked about the following symptoms: 

  • Potential causes for your symptoms or past stressful events 
  • Depression thought patterns
  • Specific triggers that make your depression worse
  • Areas of your life that have helped you manage depression 
  • Coping skills and social skills you currently use 
  • Methods to deal with behaviors that have been unhealthy for you
  • Your support system including family members
  • Depression warning signs 

Depression may affect a person's ability to solve problems and contribute to behavior patterns that are detrimental. It can impact concentration, make it difficult to see problems realistically, lower energy levels, and feel so overwhelming that other aspects of life such as dealing with chronic diseases, are often ignored. Working with a counselor may help you learn new problem-solving techniques on how to deal with depression and tackle substance abuse issues, if present.

Combined approach to treatment 

People with mental disorders, such as depression may utilize counseling and medication options simultaneously. Antidepressants can change your brain chemistry and make you feel more receptive to talk therapy, potentially preventing the depression from getting worse. If you feel calm or happier, your therapist may be able to help you start to make lifestyle changes that you can implement in the future. In some cases, family therapy or interpersonal therapy could be a valuable addition to the treatment plan.

Other tools to treat depression

With lifestyle changes, depression symptoms may lessen for some individuals. Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, and breathing work may reduce stress and improve mood and concentration. Setting healthy boundaries with people in your life may also be helpful. 

If you can, establish a regular sleep schedule and spend time outdoors, as sunlight provides vitamin D, an essential nutrient for your brain. Additionally, consider joining a volunteer organization, as helping others can positively influence how we feel about ourselves. While beginning a new habit might not seem easy, setting minor goals at first may feel more manageable. 

Find counseling for depression 

If you are diagnosed with depression, your primary care provider may help you find a therapist in your area. Without a diagnosis or insurance plan, you might still find support from a therapist, but your plan may not cover therapy in your area. Often, online therapy is more affordable and convenient than in-person therapy. 

Online therapy has also been proven to be slightly more effective than face-to-face therapy. A literature review of 17 studies on the effectiveness of online cognitive-behavioral therapy or e-CBT, when contrasted with traditional therapy, found that e-CBT more effectively reduced the symptoms of depression. It was also noted that e-CBT could be less expensive than face-to-face therapy.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
You don’t have to face depression alone

If you're interested in trying an online treatment modality, consider signing up for a platform like BetterHelp to get matched with a licensed therapist that meets your needs. You can meet with your therapist anywhere you have an internet connection and at a time that fits your schedule. 

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!" 


If you've noticed your depression begin and have been experiencing symptoms of depression for longer than a couple of weeks, you may want to learn more about your possible condition. A licensed therapist can provide you with emotional support as you navigate depression or similar mental health-related challenges. Seeking professional counseling could be the first step to committing to your mental and physical health and finding support. 
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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