Types of Therapy to Treat Depression

Counseling from a psychiatrist, psychologist or other specialist can help you cope with clinical depression symptoms.

Even if your doctor prescribes an antidepressant to treat major depression (also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or MDD), you'll likely also need to include psychotherapy in your treatment plan. A variety of psychotherapy treatments ("talk therapy") can help alleviate major-depression symptoms by helping you learn smart coping strategies. Psychotherapy may also help prevent a relapse of major depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health recommends two main types of psychotherapy for major depression :

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: Based on the theory that a negative mindset is a key component of major depression, cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients reframe negative -- and often unrealistic -- thought patterns in a more positive light to help counteract depressed feelings and behavior.
  • Interpersonal therapy: This type of therapy works on the premise that negative experiences in personal relationships can trigger or worsen major depression. It focuses on the link between mood and interpersonal relationships, and is particularly helpful in addressing such issues as unresolved grief, interpersonal disputes, poor social skills, and social isolation.

Professionals who offer psychotherapy include psychiatrists (doctors who also may prescribe antidepressants), psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed marriage, family, and child counselors. People with major depression may work with a psychiatrist, who prescribes antidepressant medications, and with a psychologist or other counselor for psychotherapy. Therapy sessions can take place in a variety of settings, ranging from private-practice offices and clinics to social-service agencies and outpatient mental health clinics.

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