If you are feeling depressed, one way to help yourself is to seek out a counsellor or psychotherapist who is qualified in offerng Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). These are highly qualified mental health experts who are post-graduate qualified. They have a first degree (mine is a joint major in Psychology and Sociology) as well as a post graduate qualification in CBT.
How CBT helps with depression
It’s not true that cognitive behavioural therapy doesn’t look at your past. When we meet a client for the first time, we always look at the past and what may have led to current issues. This is completed when we do a formulation. A formulation includes: The past and what may have led to the current problem/s, a look at the current problem, what might be triggering the current problem, what might be maintaining the current problem (thinking and behaviours) and we also look at protective factors. Protective factors are positive things in a person’s life such as a good supportive network, a close family member or friend. possibly a person’s faith etc. Anything that is positive in a person’s life.
CBT is an excellent treatment for depression because unlike traditional counselling, CBT can move much faster. Traditional psychotherapists can spend years helping you figure out what is going on and can spend inordinate amounts of time focused on the past and the “why”. CBT looks as this too, but it is a far more modern approach in that it also focuses on the present moment and helps a client find strategies and interventions to help immediately.
CBT is far more collaborative in it’s approach and therapists often give far more feedback. I remember seeing a psychotherapist many years ago and I would do all the talking just to be told at the end, “Right your time is up”. The counsellor never gave me any feedback or helped me put things in perspective.
Therapists nowadays can be a little more directive in that they may offer feedback and perspective and help normalise situations. Sometimes we just need to know that what we are experiencing isn’t abnormal and that we aren’t going crazy. Old school counsellors often don’t give you any of this information. My feeling is: I am priviledged to be privy to many behind-closed-door situations and if I can help a client by placing more context on what they are going through, I will.
Obviously confidentiality is key but I am still able to discuss trends in mental health and human behaviour that many clients find incredibly useful.
When it comes to depression, it’s very common to withdraw from life. We hide away and try to deal with the acute loneliness and can often feel as if we have been sucked into a black hole. It’s a sad place where no hope exists and we can become extra self critical and feel worthless. Our thinking can become quite dark and we engage in unhelpful behaviours (such as avoidance and withdrawal) that exacerbate the depression.
CBT focuses on thinking, how this affects us emotionally and what behaviours result from thoughts and feelings. We look at how your thoughts might be making things worse and we also focus on behaviour in depression.Often, doing more can help alleviate depression even though it can feel like a mammoth task to do more. Depressed people tend to not want to socialise but this self-isolation always makes things worse. CBT helps you to avoid less and by taking ‘baby steps, you can slowly get back to the person you used to be.
It also helps to have someone to talk to. It’s common to not want to be a liability to those around us but a therapist is there to help and listen and offloading in this way can also help immensely.
If depression is severe, anti-depressants can be considered and this combination can be formidable in fighting depression. Not everyone likes the idea of taking anti-depressants and it’s a personal choice.
Depression can seem overwhelming but there is always help out there. Just remember that depression distorts your thinking, if you can do at least one thing when you feel depressed – don’t trust your thoughts. Remind yourself that your thinking is ‘off’ and seek help. It’s a great step in the right direction!