When you’re struggling with enduring sadness, a common suggestion is to seek therapy, but how do you know what therapy is best for depression? With so many types of therapy available, and so many types of providers to choose from — plus all the complications that insurance and affordability and scheduling add — it can be difficult even to know where to start.
Making the first step toward getting the help you need is hard enough without having to do a bunch of research first, but don’t worry: we’ve got your back. Whether you’re facing a resurgence of chronic depression, a short-term challenge like the loss of a loved one, or something in between, we’ll break down your options and help you figure out which one is best.
Whichever type of therapy you choose, we’re glad you’re here, looking for answers. The sooner you can get treatment for your depressive symptoms, the sooner you’ll be able to start feeling better. So let’s get into it.
The best types of talk therapy for depression: CBT and IPT
There are a range of psychotherapies that have been proven to be effective for depression, but the two evidence-based treatments that are the most well-researched and well-regarded are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of intervention that treats depression by working to identify and reframe negative or maladaptive thought and behavior patterns. Through a set number of therapy sessions, your therapist will guide you through a series of CBT techniques to help stop these maladaptive thoughts and challenge them in the moment, disrupting the pattern and restructuring the way you think about yourself and your life.
Interpersonal therapy is focused less on the patient’s inner thought patterns and more on how their external circumstances, relationships, and experiences affect their mood. With IPT, your therapist will help you examine these elements of your life and offer communication skills, support, and coping strategies to help limit their impact on your mood.
Other treatment options
In addition to talk therapy (and often in tandem with it), there are two other therapeutic interventions that have been proven effective for people with depression: medication and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Medication, usually in the form of antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can take a few weeks to work but has been proven effective in both treating depression alone and amplifying the positive effects of therapy; they also may help prevent relapses.
These medications can’t be prescribed by a therapist — you’ll need a psychiatrist or other medical doctor to help with that — and not every kind of antidepressant works for every patient. It’s important to work with your provider to find the right one for you.
Electroconvulsive therapy is a brain stimulation therapy used to treat serious cases of depression, especially those where symptoms have been shown to be resistant to other treatments. During ECT, the patient is put under general anesthesia and an electrical current is run through the brain from carefully-placed electrodes. The procedure takes around ten minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis.
It may sound scary, but ECT has been rigorously tested and found to be safe, as well as effective in reducing symptoms of severe depression.) — it may even be more effective than medication in some cases. It can cause side effects, though, and is likely to be a late-stage option rather than a first resort.
What might help right now
Any therapy or treatment you opt to try will likely take at least a couple of weeks to show signs of working. This is completely normal; the brain is a complex organ and making changes to how it functions, whether they’re behavioral or chemical, takes time.
Therapists created Youper to make mental healthcare accessible to everyone. Youper is a mental health chatbot that guides you through interactive CBT Therapy exercises to help you calm anxiety, improve your relationships, be more productive, and improve your mood. Youper is available on your own time and schedule wherever and whenever needed.
Depression is hard enough to tackle — you don’t need to do it alone. We believe you can feel better, and we want to help you get there.