Depression Therapy 101: The Most Effective Therapies for Depression


Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions worldwide. About 5% of the adult population is estimated to suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organization. That’s about 280 million people.

Persistent sadness, exhaustion, and lack of motivation are the hallmark signs of depression, alongside many other physical, mental, and cognitive manifestations. Severe cases can be debilitating, preventing people from functioning.

The good news is that depression is highly treatable using psychotherapy, which includes depression counselling and other approaches. Let’s discuss five of the science-backed therapeutic modalities with the most promising results.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Of the different types of therapies for depression, cognitive behavioral therapy is the most popular. This treatment modality is based on the assertion that a person’s thoughts deeply influence feelings and actions.

Thus, CBT uses a three-pronged approach to addressing depression:

  • Identifying negative thought patterns and changing an individual’s perceptions
  • Determining self-destructive reactions and behaviors and improving them
  • Regulating ones physiological responses

CBT uses different methods, including journaling, relaxation strategies, cognitive restructuring, situation exposure, and behavioral activation. These enable individuals to replace pessimistic thoughts with positive thinking and engage in more pleasurable activities.

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT)

As the name implies, EFT aims to help clients identify, understand, accept, and transform painful feelings like anger, sadness, and fear. In this key depression therapy, practitioners guide their patients to deal with unpleasant emotions head-on and express them in healthier ways. In doing so, they’re helping patients manage their feelings and mood better.

EFT shows potential in restoring a sense of empowerment among patients suffering from depression—helping improve their emotion processing and regulation capacities. A 2022 study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science revealed that EFT reduces symptoms among people with major depressive disorder.

Psychodynamic therapy

Another popular depression therapy method, psychodynamic therapy focuses on subconscious thoughts, beliefs, and experiences driving a person’s depression. It aims to understand the mind’s inner workings based on the fundamentals of psychoanalytic theory.

Discussing topics like childhood events and past relationships helps patients understand where their current emotional sufferings stem from. This awareness helps them express their emotions and deal with them in a healthier way. A therapist helps reframe assumptions and exposes the connection between past experiences and current emotional challenges. A recent study shows that short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy may be as effective as CBT in addressing depression.

Somatic psychotherapy

This treatment method combines counseling with body-based practices like breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation. This holistic approach aims to boost self-awareness and relaxation techniques while examining a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Somatic psychotherapy is founded upon the belief that relaxing the body also eases the symptoms of depression. It aims to reduce stress hormones while boosting feel-good chemicals like serotonin.

While not as extensively studied as CBT and other forms of depression therapy modalities discussed earlier, previous studies show somatic therapy showed promising results in easing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptoms.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

Developed in the 1980s by a psychologist to relieve panic attacks, acceptance and commitment therapy harnesses the fundamentals of traditional behavior therapy and CBT. It seeks to teach patients to enhance psychological flexibility by accepting and tolerating depressive thoughts when they’re unavoidable.

Therapists using this modality encourage their patients to discuss past and current challenges and determine how the latter can improve the situation while avoiding negative thought patterns. Learning mindfulness and sticking to strong, positive core beliefs help patients move forward even when grappling with difficulties associated with their condition.

ACT is currently used to enhance mood, stabilize emotions, and boost self-esteem among individuals with clinical depression. A recent review on the efficacy of ACT on Chinese patients showed favorable long-term results.

What makes depression therapies effective

While treatment approaches may differ, each modality often integrates the following vital components in managing depression:

  • Compassionate support: Engaged and empathetic therapists provide comfort and motivation during challenging situations. This helps lift some of the weight off and drives depressed individuals to change their situation.
  • Motivational enhancement: Depression is often accompanied by feelings of helplessness and resignation. Clinicians must be able to counter these and encourage their patients to celebrate wins, no matter how small.
  • Coping skills development: Therapy courses must equip clients with practical mental and behavioral skills for managing distress, preventing relapse, and pursuing enjoyable activities.
  • Immediate distress relief: Relieving negative emotions is imperative in ensuring engagement. Therapists must strive to improve their patient’s situation in each session or skill implementation.
  • Processing past events: Connecting earlier events like childhood trauma and current depression provides patients with insights into their pain and how to manage their triggers moving forward.

Concluding thoughts

Psychotherapy provides a wide range of options for depression based on thinking patterns, past experiences, emotional awareness, and value-guided responses, or a combination of these elements.

Taking time to understand each approach and how it fits your needs and situation can help you find the most suitable approach. The most effective treatments are those that can result in long- term regulation skills.

While dealing with depression can often feel challenging, the availability of evidence-based strategies offers a silver lining. These techniques, often combined with medication, generate optimal results.

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  • Depression Therapy 101: The Most Effective Therapies for Depression