- Thomas Merton, "No Man is an Island”
If you are seeking psychotherapy for depression, you may already have been suffering for years. Life can feel like an unbearable burden. Perhaps nothing seems to give any joy or even any simple pleasure. When depressed, you may feel empty and lifeless and like no one understands. Depression can be isolating and even physically painful.
But for some people seeking psychotherapy for depression, feelings like these may have come on suddenly, perhaps after a stressful time, or seemingly out of nowhere-- even when many important parts of life are going very well, such as a new job, a new relationship, marriage, or becoming a parent.
Whether long-term, or new and unfamiliar, the important thing is to get help. In a safe and non-judgmental environment, I work with a client toward the goal of a more fulfilling life.
Everyone’s depression is different
During psychotherapy for depression, we work in varied ways because everyone’s depression is different. Depression takes many forms and has many causes. Some people find “fighting depression” to be an apt metaphor. Old habits of thought and patterns of action need to be faced and addressed. There may be years of very harsh judgments and negativity toward oneself that are constantly reinforcing a depressive view of life. Effective psychotherapy for depression can help you to confront these judgments and behaviors so as to change them.
However, “fighting depression" is not always the best approach. Sometimes this can actually strengthen internal negativity because resisting feelings can tend to reinforce them. The “fighting” attitude can add one more layer of harsh judgment. On top of “I’m depressed” comes "It’s bad to feel depressed,” and then even, "It’s bad to feel bad about being depressed”! The negativity spirals.
This is where a much gentler, more accepting approach to our feelings is a more useful form of psychotherapy for depression. “If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation,” said the Indian teacher Krishnamurti. An attitude of compassionate curiosity and a desire for self-understanding are important parts of psychotherapy for depression, as for psychotherapy in general.
Crucial Life Changes
Depression, in fact, can convey vital information about our well-being. It may be telling us: Slow down. Some things are out of balance. If you take the opportunity to explore the meanings of your painful experience, you might decide that some crucial life changes are needed in order to be happier. Psychotherapy can help you to explore your life more deeply, and to find the courage to act on what you discover.
In psychotherapy for depression, you learn how to take care of yourself. Sometimes gentleness and complete acceptance is best. Sometimes tougher love is needed and a firmer approach. Some parts of us can learn to “coach” other parts. There can be dialogue and mutual respect among the different parts of ourselves where previously there had been inner conflict.
Exercise, Sleep, & Nutrition During Psychotherapy for Depression
As part of psychotherapy for depression, we look at your exercise, sleep, and nutrition. These are vital parts of our overall health, because our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves are intertwined parts of a unified whole. Working on any one of these areas thus reaps benefits for all the others. Almost everyone has experienced the positive effects that exercise has on emotions and moods, and numerous clinical studies have shown that for some people, exercise can be even more effective than antidepressant medications. Regarding sleep, some helpful approaches to many sleep disturbances may be found in the link below.
Medication and Psychotherapy for Depression
For some people, medication can be helpful when combined with psychotherapy for depression. I address the issue of medication at length elsewhere on this website. I explain there that I respect all attitudes toward medication—those who want to try (or continue) it, those who do not, and those who are uncertain or have very little knowledge about it. I work with a client to decide whether consulting with a psychiatrist about medication could be a helpful aid to psychotherapy. A psychiatric consultation in no way obligates a person to begin or even to try medication. It can simply provide additional helpful information and another point of view.
The Help of Psychotherapy for Depression
Depression is multi-faceted, so I work with people in psychotherapy for depression using many tools. In a safe and compassionate environment, we collaborate to help you build a happier and healthier life. Psychotherapy for depression can help you to start being present in your own life again.
Daniel Lehrman, MA, NCPsyA, LP provides Psychotherapy for Depression in New York City, Manhattan, Brooklyn.