There are a wide number of different types of effective therapeutic approaches utilized for the treatment of depression today. These range from cognitive behavioral therapy, to behavioral therapy (ala Lewinsohn), to interpersonal therapy, to rational emotive therapy, to family and psychodynamic approaches. Both individual and group modalities are commonly used, depending upon the severity of the depressive episode and the local resources within an individual’s community.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most popular and commonly used therapy for the effective treatment of depression. Hundreds of research studies have been conducted to date which verify its safety and effectiveness in use to help treat people who suffer from this disorder. Aaron T. Beck is the father of this therapeutic technique and he has authored books and studies supporting cognitive-behavioral therapy. Consisting of a number of useful and simple techniques which focus on the internal dialogue which takes place within a person’s mind, cognitive-behavioral therapy is not concerned with causes of the depression so much as what a person can do, right now, to help change the way they are feeling.
Therapy begins by establishing a supportive therapeutic environment which is positive and reinforcing for the individual. Educating the client within the first session or two is usually the next step about how depression for many people is caused by faulty cognitions. The numerous types of faulty thinking that we as humans do are discussed (e.g., “all or nothing thinking,” “misattribution of blame,” “overgeneralization,” etc.) and the client is encouraged to begin noting his or her thoughts as they occur throughout the day. This is imperative to further success in treatment, for the individual must understand how common and often these thoughts are occurring during a single day.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, emphasis is placed on discussing these thoughts and the behaviors associated with depression. While emotions are certainly a focus of some of the time throughout therapy, it is thought within this theoretical framework that thoughts and behaviors are more likely to change emotions than trying to attempt a post-mortem analysis of why a person is feeling the way they are. Because of this approach, cognitive-behavioral therapy is short-term (usually conducted under two dozen sessions) and works best for people experiencing a fair amount of distress relating to their depression. Individuals who can approach a problem from a unique perspective and those who are more cognitively-oriented are also likely to do better with this approach.