Is There Counseling For Depression?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Depression should not be taken lightly. If you are dealing with the symptoms of depression, you're not alone. Depression is treatable, and therapy can help you gain control of your emotions and improve the quality of your life.

In this article, we discuss how different types of counseling can help relieve symptoms of depression and mood disorders.

Is Depression Affecting The Quality Of Your Life?

Symptoms Of Depression

There are different levels of depression ranging from moderate to severe depression. The symptoms of moderate depression may look different than severe depression and the treatment plans may vary.The first step to getting help is understanding the signs and symptoms of depression. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), major depression symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy

  • Lack of motivation for work

  • Either having difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Experiencing a loss of appetite or overeating regularly

  • Increased irritability

  • Feeling sad or down

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Withdrawal from family and friends while also feeling lonely

  • Low energy levels

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Executive dysfunction depression

Sleep issues are also common for people with depression. An early morning awakening or late night up is common for people with depression because they may have difficulty falling or staying asleep.When most people think about the symptoms of depression, they think of mental and emotional symptoms, but there are also physical signs of depression that many people fail to recognize. They may mistake symptoms of depression as a physical medical condition. They can include the following:

  • Headaches

  • Pain throughout the body

  • Problems with your digestive system

Depression symptoms can be present even if you are not diagnosed with clinical depression. Depression is often a comorbidity of other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and various mood disorders. Patients must meet specific criteria to be diagnosed with depression.

Causes Of Depression

People experience depression for many different reasons. For some, it is after going through a rough time in their life, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a relationship, or a job, or even feeling like life isn't going the way they expected. Substance abuse, medical conditions, side effects from prescription medications, and even birth control pills can also cause symptoms of depression. 

In some situations, people may have struggled with depression for their entire life without really knowing what has caused it. Additionally, because depression and relationships are congruent, people tend to believe that their spouse is falling out of love and is difficult to manage, resulting in breakups that have aggravated mental disorders. Whether you know why you are struggling or not, therapy can help. For some, therapists can help them discover the cause of their depression, which can help them find the right tools to cope with it and overcome it. For others, therapy will help them learn things they can do to lessen the impact that depression has on their everyday life.

Counseling For Depression

Many different types of therapy can be used to treat depression and related mental health conditions. Treatment plans for depression may combine counseling with medications and other medical interventions. Talk therapy is usually the first treatment that is recommended for patients with mild or moderate depression. Studies have shown that therapy can ease depression symptoms in even just the first few weeks, with long-lasting benefits. When you meet with a therapist, you can ask questions about their approach to therapy and why they think it is effective. 

Be open and honest with your therapist about your mental health conditions, current concerns, and goals with therapy. You may also want to consult with your primary care doctor for recommendations for what kind of therapy would be best for treating your symptoms. Here are some different approaches to therapy that counselors use.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective type of therapy for people with depression. It helps by empowering you to take an active role in your recovery. CBT works by focusing on changing your thought patterns. When you take control of your thought patterns, it helps you to change your behaviors and feelings as well. Between appointments, you'll have homework for your next session. As you learn ways to cope with your depression, you will gain confidence and self-control. CBT therapy teaches coping skills and relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and journaling. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

This therapy is another form of CBT that focuses on teaching how to deal with stressful situations. Dialectical behavior therapy teaches you how to regulate your emotions. It also incorporates mindfulness and learning skills to help regulate intense emotions that accompany depression.

Mindfulness Therapy

Learning to practice mindfulness can help people who experience depression and anxiety. Mindfulness is a practice where you learn to remove your emotional response to a situation by being present in the moment. You allow things to happen without passing judgment. So, instead of fighting feelings like sadness, you allow yourself to feel them without feeling bad for feeling them. Mindfulness helps you learn to process things differently, which can remove some of the negative impacts of difficult emotions from you.

Light Therapy For Depression

If you struggle with depression more during the fall and winter, you could be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This condition is more common if you live in a location that experiences many cloudy days throughout the season. Light therapy is when you spend time in front of a light therapy box. It's believed that exposure to light can help boost your mood.


Psychoanalysis is a form of therapy that may not be enough to treat depression on its own. However, it is an effective way to help people gain greater self-awareness and find some relief from their depression symptoms. It's a form of talk therapy that is used for treating many different mental disorders including mood disorders and personality disorders.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) focuses on how relationships impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some people prefer interpersonal therapy because it focuses on relieving depression symptoms by improving relationships.

Formats For Therapy

Not only are there many different types of therapy, but there are also different ways to take part in these therapy sessions. Here are some popular options.

Is Depression Affecting The Quality Of Your Life?

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is exactly like it sounds. During individual therapy sessions, you meet with the therapist one-on-one. This type of therapy can be helpful because you have the undivided attention of your therapist. It can also make it easier to share because no one else is listening in on your conversation.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is often a more affordable option because you are meeting as part of a larger group with the therapist. You don't have one-on-one attention, but you are in a group with other people that are dealing with some of the same struggles that you are dealing with. This can be very helpful in giving you examples of coping mechanisms that are helping others. It also helps to show you that you are not alone in your struggles.

Attending peer support groups can have many benefits for people with depression. Social support and encouragement from the other group members can help people with depression persevere through their symptoms. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is a network of support groups. You can search for a support group near you using their online directory.

Couples Therapy

If you are married or in a serious relationship and dealing with depression, it can help your therapist and your significant other if you participate in couples therapy. This type of therapy will help you learn how to handle your depression and your relationship and also help educate your loved one on what they can expect and can do to help the situation. It can help them to hear what you are going through and for you to listen to what your depression is like from their perspective.

Family Therapy

Sometimes it can benefit all parties to attend family therapy so the therapist can see how you interact with your family as a whole and for them to spot any problem areas that could be addressed. It also helps your family to learn coping mechanisms as well.

TMS Therapy

Brain stimulation therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may have significant benefits for patients with treatment-resistant depression. A recent study by the Stanford School of Medicine found that 80% of participants with severe depression had positive results from magnetic brain stimulation therapy. Not only was the treatment effective for over half of the participants, but the results were rapid. Evidence shows that FDA-approved TMS therapies can treat a range of mental disorders including depression, OCD, schizophrenia, and nicotine addiction.  


For patients with severe depression, talk therapy alone may not be enough to improve depression symptoms. A primary care doctor or psychiatrist (therapists do not prescribe medications) might recommend a mood-stabilizing medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs. 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors help depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the chemical that is responsible for happiness in the brain. SSRIs have largely replaced tricyclic antidepressants as the go-to antidepressant medication because they may cause fewer side effects. This is because tricyclic antidepressants are not as selective as SSRIs and may impact more of the body’s systems.  

Find What Works Best For You

Fighting depression can sometimes seem overwhelming, but know that there is always hope. Look for the type of therapy that works best for you. If you prefer to meet with a therapist in person, find one in your local area. If you want to be part of a group setting, you can search for groups or ask a therapist to recommend one for you.

If the thought of leaving the house to meet with a therapist sounds overwhelming because of your depression, there are other options. Online treatment allows you to get the benefit of therapy right from your own home. If you have a day when you are struggling, you can still get the help that you need.

Research supports online treatment for depression. One review of 17 studies found that online therapy may be more effective than face-to-face treatment and that participants were equally as satisfied with either form of treatment. If you feel online therapy is right for you, reach out to BetterHelp to get started.


It doesn't matter what form of therapy you choose as long as it works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Many people find that a mix of multiple treatments, including medication, self-care, and therapy sessions, is the answer they need for depression, but it's different for each person. The first step in getting the help you need is finding a therapist to help you get started on the path to recovery and healing.

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