There are many types of psychotherapy that have been shown to help relieve depression symptoms. The right one for you will depend on your symptoms and needs.
Psychotherapy is a common treatment method that can help people with depression overcome their symptoms. During psychotherapy, people with depression can learn to manage negative thoughts, build stronger relationships with the important people in their lives, and explore how prior life events are affecting their current mental health.
Some psychotherapy treatment plans are focused on single problems and are completed in just a few months. Others are long term and can last for years. The right psychotherapy for you depends on factors such as your personal preferences (such as what demographic of therapist you prefer) and the frequency, severity, and intensity of your depression symptoms.
What is psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is a therapeutic treatment that uses verbal and psychological methods to help people overcome mental health conditions and work through difficult life situations.
Psychotherapy doesn’t use treatments such as medications. However, it’s common for people to be prescribed medication along with psychotherapy to help manage mental health conditions, especially mood conditions such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression.
There are a few different types of psychotherapy used for depression. The right type for you will depend on factors such as the severity of your symptoms, your personal preferences, and any previous therapy experiences you’ve had.
Sometimes, you might use multiple types of therapy together to achieve the best outcome. Common psychotherapy treatment approaches for depression include:
- Cognitive therapy: Cognitive therapy is a treatment approach that focuses on the way thoughts affect emotions. This therapy helps you learn to identify patterns of negative thinking so that you can work to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps you identify the way you respond to negative thoughts and how these behaviors can make depression worse. It teaches how to change your response to negative emotions so that you can gain control over your thoughts and mood.
- Interpersonal therapy: Interpersonal therapy helps you look at the relationships in your life, such as those with your spouse, friends, and co-workers, and helps you look for ways to improve them. A therapist will help you find ways to address and resolve conflicts.
- Psychodynamic therapy: Psychodynamic therapy is a long-term therapy model that helps people with depression understand their full range of emotions. Often, this type of therapy helps people look into their childhood or other points in their life to examine how it might be affecting their current mental state.
Psychotherapy for postpartum depression
Psychotherapy is often an important part of the treatment for postpartum depression (PPD). Typically, CBT is recommended. CBT can help people with PPD escape negative thought patterns and behavior cycles.
Some people with PPD also find interpersonal therapy helpful. Interpersonal therapy can help people with PPD work through how the major life change of childbirth might be affecting their relationships with others and identify communication and problem-solving strategies.
Psychotherapy is generally effective for depression. It’s been linked to positive results for people with depression, including an improvement in depression symptoms.
A 2018 study analyzed data from other studies on depression and psychanalysis from multiple decades and countries. The study found that psychotherapy is an effective treatment for relieving the symptoms of depression.
Psychotherapy produced positive results across all control groups, but the researchers didn’t find significant differences in the results of different types of psychotherapy.
Therapy sessions will depend on the type of therapy you receive and on your preferences. You might have individual, family, couples, or group sessions. You might have therapy multiple times a week, or only once a month. Some therapy programs are short term and will be completed in just a couple of months, while others are long term and can last years.
Sessions may happen in person or through an online telehealth service. Most psychotherapy sessions will last 45 minutes to an hour.
No matter the format or number of sessions, your therapist will do their best to ensure that you feel comfortable and secure. Click here to learn more about what green flags you should look for in a therapist.
They’ll structure sessions based on you and your needs or goals. For instance, if a problem or concern comes up while you’re talking, you might end up devoting the rest of the session to that problem area, even if that wasn’t the original plan for the appointment.
You’ll likely discuss a wide range of topics with your therapist, such as:
- your emotional state and how it may fluctuate throughout your day or week
- what’s happening in your day-to-day life and how it’s affecting you
- checking in on your goals and plans to accomplish them
- your relationships and the important people in your life
- how to handle social situations or stressful moments
- how to cope with your particular depression symptoms
It’s important to know that everything you say during therapy is completely confidential. Your privacy is guaranteed. By law, the only times a therapist can break this confidentiality is under a court order or if they feel you’re an immediate danger to yourself or others.
While media often depicts therapy sessions as someone explaining their trauma as their therapist takes notes, that’s very rarely the reality of it. Forming a trusting relationship with your therapist is key to the success of the treatment, so it’s important to take things at a speed that you’re comfortable with.
Getting support for depression
Depression can be isolating, but there are places you can turn to for support. If you need help, you can reach out to organizations such as:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI can help you find free therapy and other local resources. You reach them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 800-950-NAMI (6264).
- The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: You’ll find support groups, educational materials, resources, and more when you visit The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
- Anxiety and Depression Support Group of America: You can find community both in-person and online with Anxiety and Depression Support Groups of America.
- TalkLife: TalkLife is a free App that connects you to a supportive community of people who are managing depression and can understand your experiences. You can find it for Apple or Android.
- 988 Crisis Lifeline: If you’re experiencing suicidal ideation, you can reach out to the Crisis Lifeline online or in the United States by calling 988 24/7 for free support.
Psychotherapy is one of the primary treatment options for people with depression. Psychotherapy can help identify ways to manage your own thinking and behaviors. It can help you learn to swap negative thoughts for positive ones and negative behaviors for productive actions.
Other types of psychotherapy can help people work on the important relationships in their lives and understand how their past could be affecting their current mental health. The right psychotherapy for you depends on your symptoms and preferences — but many resources are available.