What Types of Treatment are Most Effective for Depression?

Finding the right treatment for depression can be challenging.  Below, you will find a discussion of the available research that may help you decide on your best treatment options.

When you are depressed, it easy to lose hope and forget that depression is a treatable problem.  Finding the best treatment or therapy can help you overcome depression and reclaim your life.  Hopefully, the information below on researched and effective treatments for depression will be useful to those of you struggling with depression.

Counseling -Talk Therapy Works

Talk therapy is an extremely effective treatment for depression.  Research shows that all forms of psychotherapy work towards reducing depression.  It is hard to find one treatment (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy) that works better than the other- they all seem to be equally effective.  What does make a difference in therapy outcomes in decreasing depression are the characteristics of the therapist and the quality of the relationship you build with your therapist.

Characteristics of Helpful (Successful) Therapists

Therapists and counselors that are empathic, caring, affirming, and accepting of their clients and their clients’ problems have substantially more success in treating depression, regardless of the methods they employ.  In addition, expertise and competence in the specific treatment area (e.g. depression) is more important than overall therapist experience to the outcome of therapy.  Some studies also show that female therapists have higher success rates than male therapists, especially if the patient prefers a female therapist.

Therapeutic Alliance

The second factor that influences the effectiveness of depression treatment is the therapeutic relationship or therapeutic alliance.  Two key factors affecting this are having a trusting relationship and common goals with the client.  A strong relationship provides the safety and warmth necessary to work through difficult experiences, thoughts, and feelings that are hard to explore on your own.  Feeling understood in a deep way helps you explore your problems in more depth and gain insight.  It can also help you solve your problems faster that you would on your own.  What you learn in therapy can give you the skills and insight to resolve your depression and prevent it from coming back.

Antidepressant Medication is Not the Solution for Depression in the Long-Term

Although antidepressant medication may be the most popular treatment prescribed by medical health professionals, research indicates that it is not always the most effective.  Studies show that antidepressants are slightly more effective than placebo(sugar pill), and can be as effective as psychotherapy in the short-term.  In fact, some authors believe that the difference between the effect of placebos and antidepressants is minimal for most people.

While anti-depressant medication can reduce the symptoms of depression almost immediately, in the long term, it does not solve any problems.  Antidepressants relieve the symptoms of depression instead of attacking the root of the problem- the goal of most psychotherapists.

Another problem with anti-depressants is that 2/3 of people with depression do not respond to them.  Psychotherapy can sometimes be the best form of treatment for people who have not responded to medication.  Studies show that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can reduce symptoms of depression in people who have not responded to medication.  The improvements were maintained for a period of twelve months, which was the length of the study.  In addition, 86% of patients taking antidepressants have one or more side effects.  These can include:  sexual dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, loss of mental abilities, nausea, and/or weight gain.  Not surprisingly, many people who try antidepressants quit after 4 months due to the unpleasant side effects.

Considering that drug companies are known to selectively publish research showing the benefits of antidepressants and almost none of the studies that have concluded anti-depressants are ineffective, it is not surprising why antidepressants have such wide popularity.

Antidepressants can be useful when severe depression needs to be addressed rapidly, but they should not be the sole treatment.  Medication cannot address the underlying problems and it does not teach the problem-solving skills patients will need in the future.  The rate if relapse is high (up to 80%) if depression is treated exclusively with antidepressants.

Exercise Relieves Depression

Research shows that exercise is a good antidepressant.  A recent study showed no difference in the amount of relief experienced by a group of depressed people treated with antidepressants compared to a group that engaged in thirty minutes of cardiovascular activity three times a week for four months.  Initially, patients who received medication recovered faster, but eventually the exercise group caught up to them.  In fact, those who continued exercising after the four-month period saw their depression symptoms improve even more:  for every 50 minutes of exercise a week, patients say a 50% decrease in depression symptoms after 10  months.  This study shows that exercise is a feasible therapy for patients experiencing major depression.

Factors that Undermine and Support the Treatment of Depression

Environmental stresses such as financial and occupational problems, poverty, relationship conflict, isolation, and/or lack of social support can prolong and undermine depression treatment.  Stressful life events can trigger and exacerbate depression as well as lead to its recurrence.  Making life changes and learning how to better manage stress and cope with non-avoidable stress can reduce symptoms of depression.

The most important treatment for depression is person-centered and not disorder-centered. This means that the best treatment for you should be to respect your selection for the type of therapist (eg. age, gender, personality, style, etc) and your preferred treatment method.

You should find a counselor with expertise in the area of treating depression in women and feel comfortable that you can establish a trusting relationship with him/her.  Remember, all psychotherapy takes long-term commitment- you have to allow it time to work.

Do not settle for treatment that is partially effective or that works, but causes intolerable side effects.

If you would like help in determining what would be the best treatment for you, call me at (281)267-1742 for a FREE 10-minute consultation.

Dr. Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping mothers and those hoping to be mothers overcome stress, loss, and depression.  Her offices are located in Houston and the Woodlands, Texas.  Visit her website:  www.DrIrena.com to get her free report, “Moms and Mom Wannabes:  10 Ways to Overcome Depression and Reclaim Your Sanity”.

Dr. Irena offers online therapy for women and couples in Texas and New York City. She uses research-proven method, known as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to help couples develop and maintain the emotional connection and support each other through stressful times. She has helped highly distressed couples be available and responsive to each other, access their resiliency, and strengthen their relationships.

If you would like to schedule a session, email Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation: irena@permalink.com or call (281)-267-1742.

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