How Psychologists Treat Depression
Proper mental health has never been in the spotlight as much as it is now. From stress about the state of the world, to chronic overwork, to a lack of nutrition and sleep, there are many factors that can affect our outlook on the world.
But feelings of hopelessness or despair are one of the symptoms of major depression, a condition that can have both pharmaceutical and therapeutic treatments. For psychologists focusing on behavioural therapy, the treatment of depression follows a pattern – based on safety, personal experiences, and reliable, proven methodologies.
Creating a Safe Place for Therapy
One of the most important steps in treating depression in adults (and anyone, really) is establishing a foundation of trust and safety. From the very first point of contact with your therapist, we are making sure to build up a rapport and create a safe place for sharing difficult memories, thoughts, and emotions.
That sense of ease and validation helps prepare a client for the journey ahead, knowing that they have a supportive person they can rely on. There is no judgment or dismissive attitude – simply a desire to help them on the road to healing.
This goes beyond the words and tones used, too. The setting of the room (or virtual call, if that is preferred) plays a role and the atmosphere will be used to create a place where emotional walls can come down.
Treating Causes of Depression
There are many different causes of depression, which vary widely from person to person. They can be biological in nature or caused by circumstances in an individual’s life. Understanding the specific causes for each unique client is the key to proper resolution and treatment. Some of these causes include:
Brain chemistry, such as chemical imbalances that interfere with regulation of behaviour, mood, or thoughts
Hormone levels, especially during major life events like post-pregnancy
Family history, such as having a parent that also experienced depression
Childhood trauma, which can have a lifelong impact on fear and stress responses
Medical conditions, which can make depression more likely, including chronic illnesses or pain
Substance abuse, like drugs or alcohol, as well as addictive behaviours
Depending on the contributing personal factors and preferences – trauma, current stressors, distorted thoughts, or maladaptive core beliefs – psychologists will choose a therapy that is most likely to be effective and permanent.
Different Ways to Treat Depression
Here are a few of the different methods psychologists may use to help you overcome depression.
1) Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Like the name suggests, CBT is a short-term therapy technique that helps “reprogram” our thought patterns. It involves thinking about our own thoughts and identifying and changing problematic habits. It’s a popular choice for treatment because it can be deployed quickly, with concrete and specific principles that remain focused on the exact issues at hand.
Some of the sub-techniques used in CBT include:
cognitive restructuring (identifying negative thoughts and changing them)
thought recording and deconstructing (a form of journaling to help discover the roots of negative thoughts)
behavioural experiments (collecting information to test whether deeply held beliefs are true)
exposure therapy (repeated but controlled exposure to things that cause anxiety, to help overcome them)
These may not all be relevant to depression treatment, but since every person is different, it’s often comforting to know there are multiple options.
2) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Just like rapid eye movement sleep is associated with memory formation and cognitive function, using similar movements while in EMDR treatment can help “dislodge” traumatic memories in sufferers of PTSD, depression, anxiety, phobias, and more.
The idea behind it is simple, and when done in a professional setting, EMDR can have life-changing effects. It safely addresses and reanalyzes difficult memories and thoughts, changing them to less negative forms and clearing a better way forward.
3) Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Often focused on treating PTSD (which can have depression as a symptom), ART is an offshoot of EMDR that is meant to go faster with more guidance. Psychologists will carefully bring the client through the process, helping them reach a place where the symptoms of their condition are reduced.
Some big benefits of ART are that it is non-exclusionary – if you can move your eyes, you can take part – and it can be done without much explicit talking about the traumatic memories involved. For people with extreme anxiety, or who don’t like to talk about what they’ve experienced, this can be a very hopeful course of treatment with excellent results.
4) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
This form of therapy works not to eliminate difficult or negative feelings entirely, but to accept them as part of life. It emphasizes opening up about such feelings, laying them out plainly in order to recognize and understand them – in a way, providing them room to exist in a balanced, healthy mindset. This is a different approach from CBT, which tries to reorient those thoughts to be more positive.
Building on six core principles – cognitive defusion, acceptance, present contact, observing self, personal values, and committed action – ACT provides tools for dealing with depressive thoughts by recategorizing them in more comfortable ways. It can almost be considered a form of therapist-guided meditation and self-awareness, because it attunes you to the validity of your inner dialogue and leads to increased confidence and emotional health.
Treating Depression in Calgary, Alberta
From our clinic in the Quarry Park/Douglasdale area of southeast Calgary, we have been helping Calgarians get better mental health for the last ten years. If you’re not already, you can be part of that group, too – simply reach out for a free, 15-minute consultation with one of our specialized therapists.
Remember, you don’t have to live with depression. You can flourish instead, because there are many different methods of treatment, and we are here to help you find the best one. Set up a session and discover the difference today!