Specialty Behavioral Health

What type of treatments are most effective for depression?

There are many types of effective treatments for depression and the best treatment (or combination of treatments) depends upon each person’s unique situation. There are several common options to consider including psychotherapeutic counseling, bright light therapy, herbal or nutritional supplements, and prescribed medications.

For all forms of depression, some sort of counseling is recommended.  For mild to moderate forms of depression, psychotherapeutic counseling may be highly effective as the only treatment.  In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) have been shown to be effective types of counseling for depression. The goal of psychotherapeutic counseling is to understand the patterns associated with depression and make changes to permanently alter them.  Counseling can also be combined with medications or other types of treatments.

Bright light therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for seasonal depression (also known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD).  More recently, studies have suggested that bright light therapy may also be helpful for some individuals with non-seasonal depression.  Other types of less traditional treatments such as herbal remedies and nutritional supplements may be useful in some situations, but less is known about their side-effects and effectiveness.

For more severe or chronic forms of depression, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the most helpful approach.  For bipolar depressions, medications are usually a requisite for successful treatment.  Our staff encourage some clients to consider medication as part of the overall treatment plan and can make referrals for an evaluation if desired.  Most of the time depression medications are prescribed by a primary care physician or psychiatrist in an outpatient setting.  When a depressive disorder is severe and debilitating, hospitalization may be needed for initial stabilization until the treatments have begun to take effect.