Psychotherapy for Depression: The Path to Overcoming Your Mental Illness

Depression can make it feel impossible to get up in the morning or to sleep peacefully at night. It can drain life of pleasure and drain you of energy. It can fill your mind with endless repetitive worries or empty your mind so much that functioning becomes a problem. If you have experienced depression or have received a diagnosis of a depressive disorder, psychotherapy can be of great help. Depression is treatable, and it has been proven that psychotherapy is an effective way to manage depression and helpless, self-criticising feelings.1

Consulting with a therapist about your experience of chronically low or depressed mood can be a crucial part of finding your lost vitality as well as creating hope or optimism—possibly in ways you haven’t felt before. It is also important to investigate and rule out any potential physical causes for depressed mood, such as illnesses and drug reactions.

Understanding Depression

Depression usually involves feelings of sadness, emptiness, helplessness, weakness, or depletion, as well as difficulty finding the energy to function. You may find yourself enduring harsh self-criticism and other features common to low self-esteem. Depression affects both mind and body and seriously disrupts your efforts to live a satisfying, meaningful life. It can impact appetite, sleep, concentration, and even the will to live.

What depression is like for you may not be exactly what it’s like for someone else. Generally speaking, depression is not just extreme sadness; it affects thoughts, emotions, and the body. Some people suffering from depression have insomnia or lethargy; others find themselves eating too much or too little; others feel numb even when doing something they used to love. Depression may also disrupt your relationships with others—it may include fear of abandonment and concern that expressing yourself honestly will end the relationship. In this way and others, depression and anxiety can often coexist. See our page on anxiety for additional information about this, and its treatment in psychotherapy.

Treatment for Depression

How Therapists Work with Depression
Seeing a psychotherapist for help with depression will involve dealing with some or all of the following:

  • Identifying your particular depressive symptoms
  • Exploring the origins of your depression and possible depression in your family
  • Cultivating insight and understanding about your depression triggers
  • Processing emotions or past experiences that are contributing to depressive states
  • Exploring your relationship patterns (loss, abuse, and/or misunderstanding)2
  • Finding your strengths to better contain and manage thoughts and emotions

Other Therapies for Depression and Mood Disorders: Psychotherapy or Medication?

Depression can be debilitating. If you’ve struggled with hopeless feelings, along with disrupted eating and sleeping, and the profound loss of pleasure that depression brings, then recovery may seem very challenging to you. Some individuals wonder about the best treatment for them and whether “talk therapy” is really a sound option compared to anti-depressant medication.

Depression may result from many factors, some of which may be genetic or biological, and some of which are psychological, including those that extend back into challenging events in our childhood and families of origin. Whether you see depression as biological or not, managing it always involves addressing despairing, negative thoughts, feelings, and emotional response—this is where therapy can help. A therapist can assist you in identifying, expressing, and working through these feelings in words, and offer validation and support in understanding your concerns and unmet needs. There is no conflict between talk therapy and medication, and many individuals have actually found them to work much better together.

If you have ongoing concerns about appropriate treatment, psychotherapists at Toronto Psychotherapy Group are available to review them with you. Note that psychotherapists are not able to provide a medical diagnosis for depression or other disorders. An assessment by your physician is a good opportunity to determine your best treatment options.

Other Psychological Experiences Associated with Depression

Many mental health professionals have defined and classified other kinds of experiences related to depression or depressive disorders. They include experiences of anxiety, denial, acting out, and devaluation.

1Shedler, JK. (2010). The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. American Psychologist, Vol. 65. No.2, 98-109.
2McWilliams N. (2004). Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process. Guilford Press, NY.

To consult with a therapist who works with depression and who will work with you to clarify your specific concerns and treatment goals, view our directory of professionals.

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