Can Therapy help with Depression?
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of therapy for depression. We know that psychological treatments can relieve acute moderate to severe depression effectively, just as medication can. Severe depression is often treated with a combination of psychological treatment and medication. For some, this combination can help more than just taking antidepressants on their own. However, psychological therapy also has the benefit of teaching you strategies and coping skills that can prevent depression from returning even years after treatment is ended.
Therapy provides valuable emotional support in difficult times, and help to find out what is causing the depression. Your therapist can then provide individualised strategies for you designed to help you better cope with negative thoughts or process difficult experiences. A psychologist can help you identify and change distorted or negative thinking patterns and teach you skills to respond to life's challenges in a positive way. Sometimes therapy also gently encourages one to gradually decrease avoidance and isolation and increase activities that are enjoyable and have been shown to improve mood.
Some ways psychotherapy can help you:
Understand what your feelings reveal about your life and thought patterns.
Learn strategies to change thought patterns or circumstances for the better.
Deal with past emotional trauma.
Manage relationships in a healthier way.
Learn how to reduce the effects of stress in your life.
Coping better with life's challenges.
Address substance use issues.
Build resilience and a healthy way of looking at the world.
Improve self-esteem and self-acceptance.
Build a life that fosters more joy.
What you can do to help:
There is a powerful saying “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” Sometimes, the habits we develop either cause, or maintain, depressive symptoms. As with any life change, growth requires awareness, and in this case, this means taking an honest look at the habits you may not even realise contribute to depression. Consider fostering habits that support good mental health like:
Be kind to yourself – consider how you would act with a child going through a difficult time. Now imagine you treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion, holding yourself tenderly, speaking kindly to yourself, giving yourself nourishing food and enough sleep, indulging in activities you enjoy. We all need love to heal, yet sometimes we are subconsciously overly harsh with ourselves in the belief that strict self-discipline is needed to overcome difficult emotions. Whilst good habits are certainly important, kindness and compassion for yourself going through a difficult time is equally crucial.
Practice good sleep habits – it is very difficult for the brain to regenerate and function optimally without regular, good quality sleep. Maintain a relaxing bedtime routine with gentle stretches, soft lights and low input. Go to bed and wake up at the same time even on weekends, if you can, and sleep as much as your body needs. If you’re waking up tired, try going to bed half an hour earlier.
Avoid doom-scrolling – spending an excessive amount of time reading large quantities of negative news online has been proven to lead to a decline in mental and physical health.
Surround yourself with positive people and stimuli – how often do you end up watching stressful television shows or engaging in gossip or complaining with a friend or online? Ask yourself how these activities make you feel, and choose positive interactions, shows and online content that inform and delight. Also, spend time in nature to nourish your heart and mind.
Maintain boundaries – a sure way to feel overwhelmed and overburdened is to take on too much, or to let work spill over into your personal time. Your bedroom is a space reserved for relaxing, sleeping and loving. Mealtimes are for enjoying nourishment and company without the distraction of screens. It is equally important to maintain boundaries with people in your life that you may find exhausting or difficult to deal with. This is usually a good topic to discuss with your therapist.
Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs – As tempting as it may be to use these or any other negative distractions to avoid feeling the pain, you know this isn’t the answer, they ultimately don’t work, and can cause a new problem you have to deal with.
Stick to your treatment plan – Don't skip therapy sessions. It will take time to get better, your depression is likely to have been hanging around for a while, it’s not going to change in a day, just like going to the gym once won’t make you fit. Oftentimes the therapeutic process is so worth it in terms of growth, self-insight and living a better life in general. Also, if you take antidepressants, don’t skip days or stop them suddenly without discussing it first with your doctor.