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Psychotherapy for Depression

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Psychotherapy -- or "talk therapy" -- is an effective treatment for clinical depression. On its own, psychotherapy may not be enough to resolve severe depression. But it can play an important role when used with other treatments, including medications.

What can psychotherapy do to help with clinical depression?

The role of psychotherapy in treating clinical depression is to help the person develop good coping strategies for dealing with everyday stressors. In addition, it can encourage you to use your medications properly.

Many studies support the idea that therapy can be a powerful treatment for depression. Some, although not all, have also found that combining depression medicine with therapy can be particularly effective. A large-scale trial involving more than 400 patients with treatment-resistant depression found that the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) alongside depression medication significantly reduced depression symptoms.

What are the benefits of psychotherapy with depression?

There are a number of benefits to be gained from using psychotherapy in treating clinical depression:

  • It can help reduce stress in your life.
  • It can give you a new perspective on problems with family, friends, or co-workers.
  • It can make it easier to stick to your treatment.
  • You can use it to learn how to cope with side effects from depression medication.
  • You learn ways to talk to other people about your condition.
  • It helps catch early signs that your depression is getting worse.

What are the different types of psychotherapy?

There are many different types of therapy. Here are some of the most common.

Cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy all focus on how your own thoughts and behaviors contribute to your depression. Your therapist will help you learn new ways to react to situations and challenge your preconceptions. You and your therapist might come up with concrete goals. You might also get 'homework' assignments, like keeping a journal or applying problem-solving techniques in particular situations.

Interpersonal therapy focuses on how your relationships with other people play a role in your depression. It focuses on practical issues. You will learn how to recognize unhealthy behaviors and change them. 

Psychodynamic therapy is a more traditional form of therapy. You and your therapist will explore behavior patterns and motivations that you may not be aware of which could contribute to feeling depressed. You might focus especially on any traumas of your childhood.

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