5 Different Types Of Therapy For Depression

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated March 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you felt like you’re not yourself lately? Maybe you can't seem to get out of bed in the morning, or perhaps you're losing interest in your hobbies. If that sounds familiar, then you could be experiencing depression.

There Are Many Therapy Options For Depression

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental illness that covers a wide range of experiences. Some people only experience mild episodes of depression, but there are also people who are diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

When people experience depression, they may feel sad, lonely, empty, or even angry. They may lack the motivation to do the things they used to enjoy.

Some symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or changes in your weight that can't be explained
  • Sadness
  • Anger or a short temper
  • Lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy 
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or loneliness

Without treatment, these symptoms can linger for a long time, especially for someone with major depression.

Types Of Therapy For Depression

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a popular and effective form of therapy for those experiencing symptoms of depression. Empirically supported by countless peer-reviewed studies, this therapy modality aims to help people learn how to change their behaviors by first learning how to change their thoughts. 

CBT is based on the theory that our thoughts impact how we behave, which is a principle of early psychotherapy techniques like psychodynamic therapy. Therefore, by challenging the original thought patterns, we address the base issue instead of just working on changing behavior.

Whether through individual therapy or as a group, patients tend to take an active role in this type of therapy. This involvement may help people maintain a sense of control throughout the process. When undergoing CBT for depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental health concerns, individuals generally keep logs and complete homework in between sessions. As patients become better at recognizing negative thought patterns in their life, they can start taking steps to improve them through behavioral activation. 

  1. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is similar to CBT. It also aims to help people identify negative thoughts that produce undesired emotional and behavioral responses. Moreover, DBT tends to incorporate skills to increase tolerance of those negative emotions. It often focuses on teaching patients how to control emotions, tolerate stress, and work toward acceptance with behavioral activation. DBT also usually includes group therapy sessions and not just individual counseling sessions.

  1. Light Therapy For Depression

Some people experience depression as a result of the change in seasons. They may be particularly sensitive to 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 experiencing SAD. They sit in front of a seasonal depression light therapy box designed to allow their body to reap the benefits that the sun normally provides. It's believed that this can help to address depression symptoms, particularly improving mood and sleep, by affecting the chemicals in the brain.

  1. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy, or IPT, doesn’t necessarily address the root causes of depression, but it can help to improve relationships for a person experiencing depression. When someone is experiencing moderate to severe depression, it's likely that their relationships, even with those closest to them, are also impacted. Feelings of depression can make it difficult to interact with friends and family in a positive way, but family therapists trained in IPT may be able to help you resolve this challenge.

There Are Many Therapy Options For Depression

IPT allows the person to choose one or two behaviors they believe need improvement for their relationships. Then, the therapist typically focuses on these areas in relationship or family therapy sessions. 

  1. Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, can be beneficial to people with depression in several ways. Individuals receiving ACT typically learn how to “accept, choose, and take action.” ACT can also teach them how to be present in the moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. They typically practice observing their feelings in a nonjudgmental way. This therapy modality also often helps people identify the aspects of life that are the most important to them and then act according to those values.


Medication can be a helpful part of depression treatment. It is often 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.  

The Role Of Self-Care

When it comes to overcoming depression, self-care may play a significant role. Here are some things that you can try when practicing self-care:

Make Wise Food Decisions: What you eat can play a significant role in how you feel. You might try to eat a healthy and balanced diet each day. In some cases, depression can make it difficult to eat anything. This may be especially true for those who are experiencing  comorbid eating disorders. 

Avoid Harmful Substances: Alongside making better dietary choices, it may also be important to limit or even eliminate your use of substances like alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics. Some people use substances as a way to cope with the symptoms of depression. While substance use may seem to provide a temporary sense of relief, it’s not a healthy treatment strategy in the long term.  A therapist may be able to help you overcome substance use and addiction. If you experience addiction or any form of substance use disorder, rehabilitation treatment is often recommended first.

Maintain A Sleep Schedule: Depression can negatively affect your sleep routine. To mitigate this symptom, you might try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up and out of bed in the morning. It may help to form a plan to avoid the urge to stay in bed all day or to stay up all night. 

Keep A Journal: Journaling is often another effective treatment strategy and a healthy way to process your thoughts and emotions. Some people prefer to practice journaling at night so that they can get their thoughts out of their head before trying to fall asleep. Others like to start the day by journaling about things for which they’re thankful.

Exercise: Research shows that exercise can help relieve symptoms of depression. When you get moving, you release endorphins in your brain that can help to boost your mood. Exercise can also 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, even this may help relieve symptoms of depression. You can find an activity that suits your personal preferences and then aim to be consistent.

Get Outdoors: The fresh air and sunshine tend to be natural mood boosters. If the weather is nice where you are, then you might try to get outside for a few minutes. Even if the weather isn't optimal, the fresh air can sometimes provide noticeable relief for symptoms of depression.

Online Therapy Can Help

People experiencing debilitating symptoms of depression are sometimes hesitant to reach out for therapy in person. They may feel uncomfortable around people or even struggle to get out of bed to get ready for office-based appointments. In these cases, online therapy could be a better option. 

There has been substantial research conducted in recent years regarding the effectiveness of online counseling. One studyfound that individuals undergoing internet-based treatment for depression saw a significant reduction in symptoms. 


Just because you feel depressed right now doesn't mean you have to feel that way forever. You can look for a local therapist at one of the treatment facilities in your area. If you prefer, you can also reach out to an online therapist at BetterHelp to begin working through your depression. With the right combination of treatments and self-care strategies, you may find that you can overcome depression and experience a better quality of life.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

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.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started