What Are The Different Types Of Therapy For Depression?

By Stephanie Kirby|Updated July 12, 2022

Have you been struggling to feel like yourself lately? Maybe you can't seem to get out of bed in the morning, or you're losing interest in your hobbies. Nothing seems to make you happy, and you just want everyone to leave you alone. If that sounds like you, then you could be experiencing depression.

How Can Better Self Care Help You Manage Depression Symptoms?

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental health challenge. It covers a wide range of levels. Some people only experience mild episodes of depression, but there are also people that are diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

When people feel depressed, they may feel sad, lonely, empty, or even angry. They generally lack the motivation to do the things they used to enjoy and even to care that they don't want to.

The symptoms of depression include things like:

  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or changes in your weight that can't be explained
  • Feeling down or sad
  • Feeling angry and having a short temper
  • Not caring about your old interests
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or lonely

The important thing to keep in mind is that most people are going to have some of the symptoms of depression from time to time, and mild to moderate depression can come and go without requiring professional treatment. For it to be considered a mental health disorder, you need to be dealing with these signs of depression for at least a couple of weeks for it to be diagnosed as a mental illness. Without treatment, these feelings and emotions can linger for a long time for someone with major depression.

What Causes Depression?

There are many different reasons why people experience depression. For some, it's simply the result of a situation that they have lived through. It could be the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or a divorce. It could also be other types of trauma and harmful past experiences that they have been exposed to.

Some risk factors are believed to put people at a higher chance of experiencing depression in their life. These include:

  • Environmental - If you grow up in an environment where you are constantly exposed to things like abuse, poverty, or violence, it can make you more likely to struggle with depression as you get older.
  • Genetics - If there is a family history of depression you will want to be prepared and know what to watch so you can quickly recognize it in yourself and get help if it's happening.
  • Personality - Having low confidence and low self-esteem can put you at a higher risk of developing depression.
  • Biochemistry - There are chemicals in your brain which can be responsible for causing depression.

Types of Therapy For Depression

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a popular and effective form of therapy treatment for those suffering from severe symptoms of depression. Empirically supported by countless peer reviewed studies, this therapy works by helping people learn how to change their behaviors by first learning how to change their thoughts. Cognitive therapy is based on the theory that our thoughts impact how we behave, which is a principle of early psychotherapy techniques like psychodynamic therapy. Therefore, if we change the original thought patterns, we are treating the base issue instead of just working on changing behavior.

Whether it’s through individual therapy or as a group, patients take an active role in this type of therapy which can be helpful because they can feel that they are maintaining a sense of control throughout the process. When treating depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health disorders through cognitive therapy, they will generally have to keep logs and complete homework from the therapist in between their sessions.

As patients become more familiar with being able to recognize these negative thought patterns in their life, they can start taking steps to improve them through behavioral activation. These are valuable skills to have throughout life.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is similar to CBT. It also works with patients to help them identify negative thoughts that produce undesired emotional and behavioral responses and incorporates skills to increase tolerance of those negative emotions. There is a focus on teaching patients how to regulate emotions, tolerate stress, and work towards acceptance to change with behavioral activation.

DBT also includes attending group therapy sessions and not just individual counseling sessions.

Light Therapy for Depression

Some people deal with depression and mental illness as a result of the change in seasons and getting fewer hours of daylight in the winter. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Light therapy is a form of treatment that is used for people that are struggling with SAD. They sit in front of a seasonal depression light therapy box that allows their body to feel like they are getting the benefits that the sun would provide for them. It's believed that this can help to address depression symptoms by improving mood and sleep by affecting the chemicals in the brain.

There are some important things to take into consideration when doing light therapy to treat depression and related mood disorders so it's important to talk with a doctor or therapist before trying this on your own.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy sessions are used to help people that are struggling with depression. While IPT is not a way to address the root causes of depression, it helps to improve relationships for the depressed. When someone is suffering from moderate to severe depression, it's likely that their relationships, even with those closest to them, will be impacted. Feelings of depression make it difficult to interact with friends and family, but family therapists trained in IPT will help resolve this.

How Can Better Self Care Help You Manage Depression Symptoms?

IPT is a technique often seen in family therapy and couples therapy practices and it allows the person to choose one or two behaviors that they believe need to be improved for their relationships. Then, the therapist will focus on these areas in relationship or family therapy sessions. IPT is a type of therapy that usually comes with a set amount of time. Patients will know their focus for the sessions and when they are coming to an end.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is beneficial to people with depression in several ways. The patients learn how to Act, Choose, and Take action. They learn how to be present in the moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. They also learn how to  observe their feelings in a nonjudgmental way that allows them not to get too caught up in them. This type of mental health treatment also helps patients to learn how to find the things in life that are the most important to them and then to act according to those values.


Medication can be a helpful part of depression treatment for many people. It is frequently used in addition to psychotherapy. If your therapist feels that medication may benefit you, they may refer you to a doctor or psychiatrist for a medication evaluation at one of their treatment facilities to see if you should treat depression with prescription antidepressant medication in addition to talk therapy, as well as if your health insurance will cover it.

The Role Of Self-Care

When it comes to beating depression, self-care, a form of behavioral activation, plays a large role in the level of success that you will experience. Here are some things that you can try along with other forms of therapy that your depression therapist suggests:

Make wise food decisions: What you eat plays a large role in how you feel and food can be considered one of the most basic forms of treatment you can provide yourself. Strive to eat a healthy and balanced diet each day. It's ok to have treats now and then, but you don't want your entire diet to be sweets and treats. Sometimes when struggling with depression, it can be difficult to eat anything, especially for those who struggle with comorbid eating disorders. If you are at that point, remember that something is better than nothing.

Avoid Harmful Substances: Alongside making better dietary choices, it’s also important to practice self-care by limiting or eliminating your use of substances, like alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics. When a person is severely depressed, it’s common for people to resort to substance abuse as a way to cope; however, while substance abuse can provide temporary sense of relief, it’s not a healthy treatment strategy for the long term and it’s only masking your symptoms of depression. A therapist can help you overcome substance abuse and addiction as well, especially ones located at treatment facilities specifically for this purpose. If you struggle with addiction or any form of substance abuse, rehabilitation treatment is often recommended first.

Try to maintain a sleep schedule: Depression can play a number on your sleep routine. Do your best to be in bed at the same time each night and get up and out of bed in the morning. Don't give in to the urge to stay in bed all day or to stay up all night. Do your best to maintain a good sleep schedule.

Keep a journal - Journaling is another effective treatment strategy and a healthy way to process through all the thoughts in your head. Some people prefer to do this at night so they can dump everything before trying to fall asleep. Others like to start the day journaling about things that they're thankful for.

Exercise: This is the least favorite suggestion of many people, but exercise is important for everyone, with or without mental illnesses. When you get moving you release endorphins in your brain that help to boost your mood and it can be a release for your negative thoughts and emotions. You don't have to do a full 30 minutes or hour of exercise each day to get the benefit. If all you can do is get moving for 10 minutes, then do what you can. Find an activity that suits your personal preferences and try to be consistent.

Get outdoors: The fresh air and sunshine are natural mood boosters if the weather is nice where you then get outside and soak it in for a few minutes. It’s simple, but it can provide noticeable relief for your depressive symptoms.

Don't Stay In Depression

Just because you feel depressed doesn't mean you have to stay in it. Look for a local therapist at one of the treatment facilities in your area or an online therapist to help you start working through your depression. With the right combination of treatments, you can learn to overcome it.

Below are some commonly asked questions around this topic:

What type of therapy is used for depression?

What are the 3 types of therapy?

What are the three forms of treatment for depression?

What therapy is most successful in treating depression?

Is CBT good for depression?

What therapy is most effective?

What are the 4 major types of psychological therapies?

What is the most common therapy?

What type of therapy is best for mental health?

What is the first line treatment for depression?

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