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Getting Started: Talk Therapy for Depression

By Ellen Greenlaw
WebMD Feature

Many studies have found that talk therapy, or psychotherapy, can help treat depression. Talk therapy can help you learn about your depression and help you find ways to manage your symptoms.

“Talk therapy can give you the skills to help handle your depression, so for many people it’s a very empowering experience,” says Larry Christensen, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. “This makes it effective over a long period of time.”

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If you have mild to moderate depression, talk therapy might be all you need to feel better. But if you have more severe depression, you might benefit from medication in addition to talk therapy. Here are some tips for getting started.

What Type of Talk Therapy Is Best for Depression?

There are many different kinds of talk therapy. The two most commonly used for depression are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy. CBT focuses on looking at how negative thought patterns may be affecting your mood. The therapist helps you learn how to make positive changes in your thoughts and behaviors. Interpersonal therapy focuses on how you relate to others and helps you make positive changes in your personal relationships. Both types of therapy can be effective in treating depression.

What Kind of Therapist Should I See for Depression?

Various kinds of mental health specialists offer talk therapy:

  • Psychiatrists. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats mental illnesses. While some psychiatrists only see patients to prescribe medication, others also provide talk therapy. In most states, psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who can prescribe medication.
  • Psychologists. A psychologist can help you learn how to manage your depression and teach you ways to cope.
  • Social workers, counselors, or therapists. These mental health professionals can also help you learn to manage depression and teach you coping skills.

No matter what type of therapist you see, look for someone you feel comfortable talking to. “Your comfort level with the therapist is much more important than what kind of degree that person has,” says Eric Endlich, PhD, a Boston-based clinical psychologist. “Therapy is generally much more successful if you like your therapist and have a good relationship with that person.”

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