Many people will feel negative emotions in response to difficult life events. A person with depression may experience negative thoughts and feelings for no obvious reason that last for a prolonged period of time.

The symptoms of depression can be overwhelming and may make a person feel isolated. However, there are many treatment options available that may help a person manage their symptoms.

This article explores depression and types of therapy for depression in more detail. It also answers some common questions about depression therapy.

To help support your mental well-being and that of your loved ones, visit our dedicated mental health hub for more research-backed information and resources.

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Depression is a mood disorder that affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts. Approximately 8% of adults in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode.

People may associate the word “depression” with sadness. However, the symptoms of depression can be complex and vary from person to person.

There are different types of depression, with the most common being major depressive disorder. This type of depression involves a person experiencing a depressive episode for at least 2 weeks.

Symptoms of a depressive episode can include:

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Therapy for depression involves a person talking with a trained mental health professional, in a safe environment, with the aim of discussing and understanding their feelings and developing coping strategies.

Therapy sessions may occur one-on-one or in a group setting. A mental health professional will usually guide the session toward topics such as current thoughts and feelings, relationships, and past difficulties to help make sense of a person’s feelings and provide insight.

A doctor may suggest further treatment with antidepressant medications, therapy, or a combination of both.

Below are some types of therapy that a mental health professional may offer to a person with depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on how a person’s thoughts can affect their day-to-day feeling and behavior. It is based on the theory that negative thought patterns can change how a person behaves and what they believe, leading to a negative cycle that can be difficult for a person to realize or break out of.

A person undergoing CBT may have a session every 1–2 weeks for around 5–20 total sessions.

During a session, a mental health professional will work with a person to explore their thought patterns and understand how these patterns may link to self-destructive behaviors.

A person with depression may experience a range of negative thoughts. They may think they cannot do anything right or feel as though trying to improve a problem is pointless. During CBT, the therapist can examine these negative thought patterns and help a person manage them.

A 2021 meta-analysis concluded that CBT is an effective treatment for a range of mental health conditions, including depression. However, further studies into its efficacy on different groups of people and specific conditions are necessary.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

IPT is based on the concept that a person’s mental health is influenced by difficulties they may have with current relationships and events. This approach is different from other types of therapy that may focus on a person’s past.

It follows a structured format and may last for 12–16 weeks.

IPT tends to help guide a person through four areas of life:

  • Trouble or conflict in a relationship that is causing distress: Conflicts may include disagreements with family members, a boss at work, or a difficult neighbor. IPT aims to help a person understand what both they and the other person want and develop communication skills to help resolve ongoing conflicts.
  • Life changes: The birth of a child or a change in employment, for example, may change the way a person sees themselves and change their relationships with others. IPT aims to help a person acknowledge how these changes make them feel and learn skills and find support to help them manage.
  • Grief: A person can experience the symptoms of depression when they have lost a person who played a significant role in their life. IPT aims to help a person process their loss and encourages them to participate in activities and healthy relationships with others to support them.
  • Loneliness and isolation: A person may find it difficult to create and maintain healthy and meaningful relationships with people, causing them to feel alone. IPT aims to guide a person through the process of developing and sustaining healthy relationships with others.

A 2016 meta-analysis covering 90 studies found IPT to be an effective treatment for depression, with an efficacy similar to other therapy options such as CBT.

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a type of talk therapy. It is based on the idea that talking about issues can help a person become aware of the potential causes of their problems and develop skills to address them.

It is based on four key principles:

  1. Unconscious factors, such as biology and psychology, can affect a person’s behavior.
  2. A person’s personality shapes how they experience the world.
  3. Past experiences shape how a person responds to situations in the present.
  4. Due to the first three principles, a person must actively work to understand and take control of their emotional responses.

Psychodynamic therapy aims to help a person understand how their past experiences, often beginning in childhood, influence their present behavior. A therapist will encourage a person to speak about whatever is on their mind so they can become aware of any patterns that may be contributing to their problems and help resolve them.

Some research has suggested that psychodynamic therapy may be at least as effective as CBT in treating depression.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about depression therapy.

Can a person control their depression?

A person does not choose to have depression and should not feel guilty if they are having difficulty controlling their symptoms. The best way a person can manage their symptoms is to speak with a doctor about support and treatment options.

A person may find that certain lifestyle changes such as meditation, regular exercise and sleep can help prevent symptoms from worsening.

How much does therapy cost?

Therapy can cost $100 or more per hour, but some therapists offer therapy on a sliding scale.

A person’s health insurance may provide some level of coverage for therapy. A person without health insurance may wish to look into federally funded healthcare options.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America provides a list of important questions for a person to ask their therapist and insurance provider about costs.

Is there a cure for depression?

When a person is cured of a condition, it tends to mean it can never return. While therapies and medications can treat the symptoms of depression, there is a chance of symptoms returning.

Research shows that relapse of depression symptoms after treatment can be common, but interventions such as CBT are effective at lowering the risk of relapse.

Depression is a common mental health disorder that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. A person should not feel ashamed or alone when dealing with depression. There are several types of therapy that may help a person work through their thought processes and build up constructive coping strategies.