The Three Main Conventional Treatments for Depression


Broadly speaking there are three main conventional types of treatment for depression and the one chosen generally depends on the nature and severity of the illness.


This basically involves talking and listening to relieve specific symptoms and to help people adjust to and cope with the problems of everyday life. Consequently it is sometimes referred to as supportive psychotherapy or dynamic psychotherapy.

Psychoanalysis is a more intensive form of dynamic psychotherapy which involves extensive exploration of a person’s behavior and psychological functioning, and which often requires treatment over a period of many years.

Cognitive psychotherapy involves changing a person’s responses to situations so that negative ways of thinking which lead to the depression can be avoided.

Behavioral psychotherapy aims to improve a patient’s emotional well-being and success in life by effecting a positive change in their behavior.


The second major kind of treatment for depression relies on medication and this is generally most successful where physical symptoms are dominant. The majority of patients respond to antidepressant drugs of one kind or another, provided that the drug selection is appropriate to the symptoms and that the medication is given in sufficient dosage and for long enough. The treatment should always be carefully monitored while the recipient is kept under close supervision, but these days modern antidepressant treatment is much safer in cases of accidental or deliberate overdose and is relatively free from unpleasant side effects. Furthermore, contemporary anti¬depressant drugs are non-addictive. Their main problem is that relapses are always possible if the drugs are not continued for long enough.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

The third type of treatment for depression consists of electroconvulsive therapy although this is now reserved for a very small minority of severely depressed people in whom the other two less invasive methods have not worked. Despite popular misgivings about ECT among the general population, appropriately employed ECT given under general anesthetic is effective and safe and may even be life-saving for those whose depression and associated delusions appear intractable.

Very frequently a combination of the first two methods of treatment are used to help those with the commonest forms of depression, with the vast majority making a full recovery within a few weeks or months. Thereafter, early recognition of any similar symptoms is important as in some people there is a tendency for depression to recur.

Emotional and Spiritual Healing

The good news is that you should eventually recover from depression and feel as well as you ever have, or with good therapy, even better. Depression need leave no scar on you or your personality and in later times you may actually be able to see it as a gift that changed your life. If you’re grieving, then you may be feeling angry with God or whatever you see as the supreme force. Or it may be that the present situation helps open your spirituality as you look for some way to make sense of what has happened. Depression almost always gives us a chance to see the world differently. In trying to determine what you need to do for yourself right now, perhaps you could think about what advice you would give to your best friend if he or she were in the same situation, then take it for yourself.

Perhaps one of the questions you could ask yourself is why are you staying in your current situation? What are you still gaining from being there? For instance, is it easier to stay in your depression than to take the courage to do whatever you need to do to make a change in your life? Do you gain attention from being where you are that you felt you wouldn’t gain if you were well? Have you been in a similar place before and if so, why have you found yourself there again? What can you learn from the pattern so that you don’t have to revisit it? Are you holding onto some anger or resentment that’s eating away at you? Is there someone you need to forgive? What one small change could you make to get your¬self out of the depressed rut you’re in and start to get your life moving again? It might help to take some time and write out what you feel your problem to be. Keeping a journal, writing out the pros and cons of the situation may give you some clarity and help you see a way forward.

Spiritual healing, either with the help of a healer as a guide or doing the work yourself, can help you understand and let go of the past and heal the present while giving you a more realistic outlook for the future. There is a biochemical basis for much depressive illness, and a biochemical imbalance usually requires a biochemical solution, i.e. antidepressants; and we’re not suggesting you give up your antidepressant if you’re taking one.

However most of all, we hope you will learn to truly love yourself which is an essential prerequisite for happiness and peace of mind. And lastly, let go of any guilt about being depressed. It is not your fault, nor does it indicate that you have not tried hard enough or done something wrong. Be gentle with yourself.

Leslie writes for Insight Matters a counselling practice in Dublin.