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What types of psychotherapy can help treat depression?

The following forms of therapy may be comparable in effectiveness to treatment with tricyclic antidepressants for mild-to-moderate and major depression.

  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a brief, standardized (15–20 sessions) treatment approach that emphasizes the relationships between mood and experiences in the person's interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a brief, standardized (15–20 sessions) treatment approach that emphasizes the relationships between mood and experiences in the person's interpersonal relationships. IPT intervention consists of identifying and ameliorating difficulties in interpersonal functioning associated with the patient's current depression. The therapist helps the patient recognize associations between mood and interpersonal experiences in one of four potential problem areas: unresolved grief, interpersonal disputes, difficult role transitions, and interpersonal deficits (e.g., social isolation or inadequate social skills.)
  • Psychodynamic-interpersonal psychotherapy is similar to IPT but makes more use of the relationship between therapist and client in the therapeutic work.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a directive, structured form of psychotherapy in which the therapist uses a variety of techniques to help individuals modify negative, maladaptive ways of thinking. Therapy sessions typically consist of a review of material from the previous session including homework assignments, planning, specific tasks, and the assignment of homework. Initial sessions generally emphasize the recognition of maladaptive thoughts, with later sessions focused on the testing and modification of erroneous assumptions (e.g., "If I make a mistake, it means I am a failure.").

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counseling, can take many forms, many of which can be very helpful and therapeutic for someone with depression.

There are many types of talk therapy across the world, and new therapies being developed and studied. Some of these may be very effective for you. The two types of therapy that have proven to be especially effective in treating depression are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which works to change negative styles of thinking and behaving that may contribute to depression. It combines cognitive therapy, which helps patients develop healthier thought patterns and behavior therapy, which helps patients respond in new ways to difficult life situations.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT), which works to change relationships that cause or exacerbate depression.

Talk therapy can be hard work. It is important that you go to all of your scheduled appointments on time and keep actively involved in the process.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.