Therapy for depression - which type is right for you?

There are many different types of therapy to treat depression and other mood disorders. Psychotherapy can be an effective form of treatment for depression because it can help you delve into possible underlying reasons for your depressive feelings and learn new skills to cope.


Finding out which type of psychotherapy is best for you will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of your symptoms, your own personal preferences, and your therapy goals. The therapeutic modalities described below have evidence supporting their benefits as treatments for depression.


Cognitive Therapy


The aim of cognitive therapy is to help individuals realise that they can influence their mood by identifying and changing their thoughts and beliefs. When people are depressed, they often think very negative thoughts about themselves, their lives, and their future. This further worsens their mood. Cognitive therapy focuses on discovering and challenging unhelpful assumptions and beliefs, and developing helpful and balanced thoughts. Cognitive therapy is also structured, time-limited, and focused on the ‘here-and-now.‘ This form of treatment for depression has been proven to be effective when individuals are able to acquire the skills that are being taught in therapy.


Behaviour Therapy


Depressed people tend to feel lethargic and unmotivated. They often stay at home and avoid going out and interacting with people. As such, they may miss out on opportunities that help lift their mood. Behaviour therapy aims to identify and change aspects of behaviour that may perpetuate or worsen the depression. Some behavioural strategies include goal setting, activity scheduling, social skills training, and structured problem-solving.


These two therapies have been shown to be effective most of the time. Often, a combination of these therapies are offered for people who experience depression.


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Because cognitive therapy and behavioural therapy work well together to treat depression and anxiety disorders, the two are often combined in an approach called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on addressing both the negative thought patterns and the behaviours that contribute to depression.


Your therapist may ask you to keep a journal to track the events of the week and any self-defeating and negative reactions to those events. Habitual negative responses to events (known as automatic negative reactions) are just one pattern of thinking you might address over the course of CBT. Other response patterns include all-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralization, two common cognitive distortions.


Once you have learned how to recognize your response patterns, you will work with your therapist to learn new ways of thinking and responding. You might also practice positive self-talk.



Psychotherapy should be a safe and supportive process, no matter which type of therapy you decide on. When working with a psychotherapist, you should always feel comfortable opening up and sharing your feelings and challenges with depression.


If you try a therapist and don’t feel connected or are concerned that their technique or approach isn’t the right fit for you, it may be a good idea to try a different therapist. It’s also OK to be upfront and honest with the therapist who didn’t work out, too. They might even have a better recommendation or referral for you.

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