How Does Therapy Help in the Treatment of Depression?

Medically reviewed by: Shane Trujillo, EdM
Tuesday, April 4

Feeling sad all the time. Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. Having trouble getting out of bed. 

If you’re experiencing these or any other symptoms of depression, you may be wondering what it takes to get back to feeling more like yourself again. 

Rest assured, you’re not alone. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the U.S. and affects more than 8% (21 million) American adults each year. Most importantly, help is available. Here’s how therapy and the right treatment plan for depression can help you cope with symptoms and start to feel better. 

How therapy helps in the treatment of depression

Many people who experience depression can benefit from psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Talk therapy is usually done with a licensed mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist, and can help you identify and change emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that may be contributing to depression. Talk therapy can help you cope with and ease depression symptoms. It can also help you: 

  • Adjust to a crisis or challenging life event 
  • Replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive ones
  • Find better ways to cope and solve problems
  • Regain a sense of control in your life

There are many different types of talk therapy that may benefit someone experiencing depression, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Exposure Therapy, or Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). The talk therapy that’s right for you will depend on your unique needs. 

What treatment for depression looks like 

When you first begin talk therapy, you’ll work one-on-one with your therapist to explore your symptoms and concerns, as well as the goals you want to achieve. These initial conversations will help your therapist determine your unique needs. Then, they’ll work with you to develop a treatment plan for depression based on your specific goals. 

Throughout your therapy journey, your therapist will help you build skills to better cope with symptoms of depression so you can reach your therapy goals. They may have you complete homework assignments outside of therapy, so you can put the skills you learned in therapy to the test. 

It’s okay if it takes some time to master these skills. There is no timeline for reaching your therapy goals, and everyone’s journey is unique. What’s important is that you feel you’re making progress in therapy. If you feel you’ve hit a setback, know that this is normal. Talk to your therapist about how you’re feeling. Together, you can adjust your treatment plan to help you get back on track. 

Some people may also benefit from taking medication to treat depression symptoms in combination with talk therapy. Whether or not medication is right for you is something you and your therapist will decide together. If it’s determined that medication may help you, then your therapist will refer you to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors and — unlike therapists — can prescribe and monitor medications. Throughout your therapy journey, your therapist will work with you to make sure your treatment plan continues to meet your specific needs. 

How to get a diagnosis and connect to a therapist for depression 

Seeking professional help for depression is a courageous first step toward feeling better. But you may be wondering where to start. 

If you haven’t received a diagnosis for depression from a licensed professional, then you can do so by either seeing a medical doctor such as a primary care provider (PCP) or family physician. They’ll screen you for depression during your visit, and if it’s determined you have depression, they’ll likely refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment. 

Along with treating depression, a licensed therapist can also diagnose depression. If you’d rather get started with therapy right away, then connecting with a licensed therapist can be your first step in getting a diagnosis and starting treatment. Your therapist will use clinical questionnaires such as the PHQ-9 to assess symptoms associated with depression and to help them determine a diagnosis. They’ll also use your responses to clinical questionnaires throughout your therapy journey to identify any behavior patterns or changes in your well-being, and to see how you’ve made progress. 

A psychiatrist can also provide brief talk therapy during psychiatric appointments, in addition to prescribing and monitoring medications. However, it’s common for a psychiatric provider to recommend additional psychotherapy with a licensed therapist to best treat your symptoms. 

Recovery from depression is possible 

Sometimes depression can make you feel alone and hopeless. But with help from therapy and the right care plan, you can learn to cope with and even overcome symptoms of depression so you can feel more like you again. Depression is one of the most treatable mental health conditions, and between 80% to 90% of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment. Nearly all experience some relief from their symptoms.

If you feel that therapy might be the right first step toward getting help for depression, SonderMind can help connect you with a therapist who specializes in the treatment of depression and meets your unique needs.

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