Topics Covered in This Depression Treatment Article:
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)
- Psychotherapy, Medication or Both?
This article outlines some general treatment guidelines which you may want to take into consideration when seeking or administering treatment for clinical depression and related mood disorders. The discussion below is not meant as an alternative to seeking treatment for depression from a trained mental health professional.
First, depression as discussed in this article refers only to Major Depressive Disorder (look at the criteria for a Major Depressive Episode here also). This does not include depression as a result of the loss of a loved one, due to medical causes, or Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression). “Medical causes” does not mean, however, that the depression is caused by some sort of “chemical imbalance.”
The theory of a “chemical imbalance” is just that — a theory. Like the half-dozen or so psychological and other medical theories for the cause of depression, it has scientific research support.
Second, the studies discussed below do not yet predict individual responses to the specific treatments mentioned. In other words, just because it works for most people still does not mean it will work for you. It is more likely to work for you, but no scientific study, either in psychology or medicine on this topic, yet are specific to an individual’s own situation, environment, genetics, etc. Keep this in mind.
Most clinicians practicing today believe that depression is caused by an equal combination of biological (including genetics), social, and psychological factors. Treatment approaches which focuses exclusively on one of these factors is likely not as beneficial as a treatment method which addresses all three of them. Depression remains a complicated disorder and research is only beginning to fully grasp the complexity of factors — personal, genetic, biological, societal, and environmental — which are involved. Any explanation or approach which emphasizes only one factor as the cause of depression is misleading and simplistic. Individuals should avoid accepting a simplistic answer to such a devastating and complex disorder.
There are a wide number of different types of effective therapeutic approaches utilized for the treatment of depression today. These range from cognitive behavioral therapy, to behavioral therapy (ala Lewinsohn), to interpersonal therapy, to rational emotive therapy, to family and psychodynamic approaches. Both individual and group modalities are commonly used, depending upon the severity of the depressive episode and the local resources within an individual’s community.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most popular and commonly used therapy for the effective treatment of depression. Hundreds of research studies have been conducted to date which verify its safety and effectiveness in use to help treat people who suffer from this disorder. Aaron T. Beck is the father of this therapeutic technique and he has authored books and studies supporting cognitive-behavioral therapy. Consisting of a number of useful and simple techniques which focus on the internal dialogue which takes place within a person’s mind, cognitive-behavioral therapy is not concerned with causes of the depression so much as what a person can do, right now, to help change the way they are feeling.
Therapy begins by establishing a supportive therapeutic environment which is positive and reinforcing for the individual. Educating the client within the first session or two is usually the next step about how depression for many people is caused by faulty cognitions. The numerous types of faulty thinking that we as humans do are discussed (e.g., “all or nothing thinking,” “misattribution of blame,” “overgeneralization,” etc.) and the client is encouraged to begin noting his or her thoughts as they occur throughout the day. This is imperative to further success in treatment, for the individual must understand how common and often these thoughts are occurring during a single day.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, emphasis is placed on discussing these thoughts and the behaviors associated with depression. While emotions are certainly a focus of some of the time throughout therapy, it is thought within this theoretical framework that thoughts and behaviors are more likely to change emotions than trying to attempt a post-mortem analysis of why a person is feeling the way they are. Because of this approach, cognitive-behavioral therapy is short-term (usually conducted under two dozen sessions) and works best for people experiencing a fair amount of distress relating to their depression. Individuals who can approach a problem from a unique perspective and those who are more cognitively-oriented are also likely to do better with this approach.
- An Introduction to Treatment of Depression
- Facts about Depression
- Treatment of Depression With rTMS
- Depression versus The Blues
- Depression and the Elderly
- An Overview of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
- How Can I Help a Loved One With Depression?
- Further Information About Depression
- Types of Depression
- How Do I Reduce My Risk of Depression?