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Talk therapy is one of the main treatment options for depression, but which kind is right for you?

Did you know that over 17 million people in the United States alone have suffered from depression in their lifetimes? Though you may feel there is no "way out" while you're in the thick of a depressive episode, even the most severe depression can be treated — and that means your first step is asking for help, something many depressed people find very difficult. 

Around 35 percent do not actually begin working with a doctor to overcome their depression. Approximately six percent, meanwhile, simply receive antidepressant therapy as a stand-alone treatment. This is unfortunate, because talk therapy can play an incredibly important role in helping you overcome depressionthree quarters of people who participate in psychotherapy sessions report that they derive some kind of benefit from it. 

Starting therapy can be scary, however, if you don't know what to expect. Deciding what kind of therapy is right for you may be difficult as well, and that is why we'll look at the types of psychotherapy that have been shown to have the potential to help depressed patients. While there are many more kinds of therapy out there, your doctor will most likely recommend one of these three, each of which is best suited to a particular situation. 

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short, is undoubtedly the most well-studied therapeutic philosophy out there. The core tenet of CBT is the idea that thoughts precede moods — how you think about the world impacts your interactions with it and feelings about it. You learn to identify thought patterns that are not constructive for you and work with your therapist to change them. CBT is a kind of therapy that mostly focuses on your current problems and how to overcome them, and most people who start going to cognitive behavioral therapy begin reaping the benefits in 12 to 16 weeks. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a viable alternative to antidepressant medications in patients suffering from mild to moderate depression, especially if their depression was triggered by objectively difficult situations. It can also work well for people with severe depression, often in combination with antidepressants, and can help prevent relapses. 

2. Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is another short-term therapy that should lead to relatively fast improvements in symptoms — again, you can expect results in 12 to 16 weeks. Unlike CBT, however, IPT focuses on helping you improve your relationships with the people in your life. Interpersonal therapy may be especially helpful for those depressed people who have recently experienced big people-related life changes, such as:

  • A bereavement
  • A role change — things like getting married, getting a promotion, losing a job that was a large part of your identity, or having grown children leave home
  • A conflict with someone important to you, such as marital conflict, problems in your relationship with your parents, or no longer speaking to your sister

IPT hasn't been shown to be better than CBT in treating depression, but research also doesn't suggest it has worse results. Whether this therapy is right for you depends on your current circumstances. 

3. Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy may be what people who have never attended therapy have in mind when they hear the word "psychotherapy" — aspects of this philosophy date back to Freud, though other thinkers have also contributed to it rather a lot since. Psychodynamic therapy can be as effective in treating mild to moderate depression, research shows, as antidepressants. The results may be slower, but potentially also longer-lasting. That is because psychodynamic therapy delves into your childhood experiences and helps you analyze how they impact you today, as well as looking for subconscious motives that drive your behavior and mood. 

Talk therapy for depression: You may not have to choose one type

Trouble concentrating, lack of energy, indecisiveness, and difficulty participating in everyday tasks are, of course, all core symptoms of depression. Plucking up the courage to approach your family doctor to let them know that you think you are depressed can be hard enough — looking into all the ins and outs of different kinds of talk therapy may be nearly or actually impossible. 

The good news is that you may not have to choose one type of talk therapy. Many therapists are trained in multiple therapeutic disciplines and will be very happy to work with you to create a therapy program that is uniquely tailored to your needs, while borrowing the bits and pieces of each form of therapy that will benefit you. Therapy can be conducted one-on-one, in individual sessions, or you may decide that group therapy for depression is a good choice for you. 

The forms of talk therapy that have been shown to have the potential to help depressed people get better all work for some people, but that doesn't mean they necessarily work for everyone. Good therapists will let you know if they have cause to believe that another kind of therapy, which they can't offer, is more likely to lead to a positive outcome — and they will refer you to a colleague who may be better suited. Once you start therapy, offer your therapist constant feedback to let them know what you think of your progress and experience of the sessions, and try a different kind of therapy if you truly aren't seeing any improvement, the kind of therapy you started seems to have a different focus than you need, or you simply dislike your therapist. 

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