Counselling can be an effective option for treating clinical depression. It may be sufficient to treat depression by its own standard or it may be used in conjunction with medication and alternative treatments. A therapist may utilize one specific approach or may work from several theoretical approaches. He or she will work to address various parts of your depression, which may involve emotions, behaviours, thought patterns or past experiences. The main approaches used include:
- Combined cognitive/behavioural
There are many more therapeutic styles and these main categories can still be broken down into various specified approaches, but they comprise the commonly used foundations for counselling.
Cognitive/Behavioural TherapyCognitive therapy utilizes the mind to influence and guide behaviours. It is based on the premise that your past struggles can negatively impact how you view yourself and can also influence your attitude, feelings and capability to handle new situations. It operates by encouraging the individual to identify and challenge various destructive thoughts so that the client can then change these thoughts into positive and productive ones. It is thought that this type of therapy can be of benefit to people with depressive disorders because it alters the pessimism that is often present and transforms this into positive and healthy ways of thinking.
Behavioural therapy operates on the premise that behaviours are learned responses to prior experiences and these can essentially be 'unlearnt' or modified into positive and helpful actions. This type of counselling therapy is solution focused and works to alter present behaviours to improve relations with others, which is then thought to improve self-esteem and moods.
Cognitive therapy is also often combined with behavioural therapy to provide a combination of techniques. Clients are shown ways to modify negative thoughts so that they are more encouraging and the belief is that positive behaviours then follow. Cognitive/behavioural therapy is considered effective for depression as well as other mental health disorders such as eating disorders, anxiety and phobias.
Psychodynamic ApproachThe psychodynamic approach is focused on both unconscious and conscious reactions and thoughts to past experiences and how these are related to behaviours in the 'here and now.' The client is questioned about his or her past experiences, which will usually include childhood, relationships, family and any other areas that a client presents as being influential.
Person-Centered ApproachThe person-centred approach is grounded on the idea that the client is his or her own best resource to solving problems. The counsellor takes on the responsibility of providing an accepting, empathic and open atmosphere and it is believed that this therapeutic relationship allows the client to express him or herself freely. The client is then thought to be able to share, clarify and understand feelings that have created problems. This type of counselling is heavily focused on the client's development as a person and his or her self-perceptions and power to change. While the therapist facilitates an environment conducive to development and change, it is the depressed client who ultimately creates and chooses his or her path.
Which Type of Counselling Is Best?In terms of research, the approach that has demonstrated success for treating depression is cognitive/behavioural, which is solution focused and works to equip individuals with skills for depression management. It should be noted, however, that the factors cited by approaches such as person-centred are considered immeasurable by scientific standards. This therapeutic approach, for example, is concerned with areas such as the quality of the therapeutic relationship, and this is difficult to measure in scientific terms. Therefore, there is much less research available to attest to the effectiveness but this does not mean you can't find success by utilizing this type of counselling therapy.
Many experts will agree that it is the rapport between counsellor and client that is vital for success and the approach and any techniques used are secondary. Try to find a counsellor who provides a comfortable and warm environment where you are able to talk about yourself freely and openly. No amount of training on the part of the counsellor is likely to make up for a poor rapport that leaves you unable to share what is bothering you.
Tips For Choosing A CounsellorA counsellor should have taken some form of professional training, which may involve a certificate, diploma or postgraduate degree. Counsellors can apply for professional designation and this ensures that they have met specific educational, practical and ethical standards. You can usually find local counsellors in your telephone book or you may have friends or family members who can provide recommendations.
Your doctor will also likely be able to recommend appropriate counselling and you may be eligible for monetary coverage if you are recommended via your doctor. You may already be taking medication alongside other treatments for your depression, but do consider counselling as a possible option. By helping you to work though any influential psychological and emotional areas, counselling can be a beneficial part of your depression management plan.