The Role Therapy Plays in Depression Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 22, 2023
3 min read

Psychotherapy is another tool in your toolkit to manage depression. And it works for lots of people. Research shows most people who use psychotherapy find it helpful.

Psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or psychological therapy) is when you talk about your condition and the issues connected to it with a mental health professional. It can help you:

  • Manage hard times in your life
  • Spot harmful beliefs and behaviors and swap them with healthier ones
  • Dive into relationships and experiences
  • Figure out your depression triggers and change behaviors that make them worse
  • Ease depression symptoms
  • Set practical life goals

Mental health professionals base the type of psychotherapy they use on your needs. Many times, they’ll use two methods at once. The most common types of psychotherapy include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Doctors use this form of mental health treatment for depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug misuse, and other issues. Research shows CBT works just as well, or even better, than medication or other types of psychotherapy. The main ideas of CBT are:

  • Mental health issues stem partly from negative thinking and behavior patterns you learn over time.
  • You can learn how to manage these thoughts and behaviors to ease your depression symptoms.

Your therapist will guide you through different strategies, including:

  • Spotting warped, unhelpful thoughts and looking at them based in reality
  • Understanding others’ behaviors and impulses
  • Using problem-solving to handle hard situations
  • Becoming more confident in your skills
  • Facing your fears instead of avoiding them
  • Role-playing to better communicate with others
  • Relaxation techniques for your mind and body

Your therapist may not do all of these. But through in-session exercises and homework, you’ll eventually have the skills you need.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

This type of therapy focuses on dealing with relationship issues that may play a part in your depression, such as:

  • Grief you haven’t processed
  • Changes to your work or social life
  • Conflict with your loved ones
  • Problems connecting with others

IPT is a short-term treatment where you’ll learn healthy ways to communicate how you’re feeling and better relate to other people.

Group Therapy

In group therapy, five to 15 people focus on one specific medical problem like depression, or a general topic such as improving social skills. Led by one or more therapists, the group meets for 1-2 hours every week. Some people will also go to therapy on their own. Groups may be open to new members at any time. Or the same people may be required to go through the program together.

One of the benefits of group therapy is being with people dealing with the same things you’re dealing with. It can be helpful to know you’re not alone.

Your therapist may also use one or more of these:

Dialectical behavior therapy. Therapists use this type of CBT to treat people with ongoing suicidal thoughts and other conditions. You’ll learn how to better control your emotions and change unhealthy or troublesome behaviors.

Psychodynamic therapy. Events from your childhood events and negative thoughts you’re not even aware of could be affecting your mental health. Psychodynamic therapy tackles these ideas to improve your self-awareness and change old patterns.

Psychoanalysis. This in-depth type of psychodynamic therapy involves meeting your therapist three or more times a week.

Supportive therapy. Therapists guide and encourage you and help you build the tools to manage your depression. You’ll work on your self-esteem and social skills, and learn how to lessen anxiety.

Acceptance and commitment therapy. During this type of treatment, you’ll pinpoint and accept thoughts and feelings and commit to change. The goal is to help you manage whatever is happening in your life.

You’ll usually meet at your therapist’s office once a week for 45 to 60 minutes, or in a group session if you’re in the hospital for treatment. But there are other options that may work just as well. These include:

  • Online sessions
  • Videos
  • Workbooks

A mental health professional may lead these programs, or you may be able to do them on your own. Talk to your therapist and ask if they can suggest a program, and be sure to find out if your health insurance covers it.