Therapy for Depression
Our Halifax clinic sees many clients seeking psychological therapy for depression. Depression is a term that may describe some or all of the following symptoms: depressed mood, diminished interest or pleasure in most activities, significant weight loss or change in appetite, sleep problems, physical agitation or slowing, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt, a decrease in concentration or focus, and recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicide.
These symptoms additionally result in one experiencing significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (APA, 2000).
It is important to note that the experience of depression can often prevent a person from asking for the help they need. For example, it is not uncommon for many who are depressed, to feel that their problems are small in comparison to those who are worse off, and that others are more deserving of a therapist's time and attention. Moreover, many people struggling with depression feel that their situation is hopeless, and that therapy could not help them. I talked about these mental obstacles in a video post on psychological roadblocks to therapy. Clients seeking depression treatment and therapy should recognize that this is part of what it is to be depressed. Feelings of hopelessness are common, and can make it difficult to see a way out of the psychological pain.
It is also important to understand that the diagnostic label of 'depression' merely describes a cluster of signs and symptoms... not how those symptoms came to be, or explaining how they are maintained. Therefore, an important part of the therapeutic process involves exploring the root causes of depression while validating emotional reactions to what are often very real psychological pains and stressors. We have experience helping clients who suffer from depression and we use logical and empirically supported treatments to help our clients get 'un-stuck.'
Therapy for depression can take many forms. We do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and can tailor our interventions to meet your needs. If you have been in therapy before, let us know what worked for you, what did not work, and tell us if you have a sense of what you are looking for. We are skilled in both cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic models of therapy, and have experience with interpersonal and existential therapies, which can be useful approaches in helping someone recover from depression. Working collaboratively, the client and therapist will strive to overcome therapeutic obstacles, while paving a path toward symptom resolution and meaningful change.
Sometimes the severity of depression can reach a point where suicide begins to look like a viable option. Though the underlying causes that give rise to suicidal thoughts and feelings can be very different across individuals, the act of suicide is almost always seen as a solution to escape some mental anguish or emotional turmoil. A completed suicide is very difficult to predict, so all suicidal thoughts or feelings need to be taken seriously. Some especially significant risk factors include the following:
- A plan for suicide (thought has been given to how to end one’s life)
- Means to follow-through with plan for suicide
- Sense of overwhelming hopelessness or despair about the future
- Social isolation & lack of a support network
- The above, combined with impulsivity (can be heightened by drug or alcohol use)
If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings, it is important to reach out for help. If you are at immediate risk, we advise you to call 911 or get to a hospital where you can be kept safe until the crisis passes or until you get linked up with additional supports. These supports may include a Halifax psychologist skilled at working with those experiencing depression and suicidal ideation. We encourage our clients to talk about their suicidal thoughts and feelings, though we also encourage our clients to think about suicide as a permanent solution to what may be a temporary problem. This problem may last weeks, months, or perhaps even years… but there is reason to believe that with the right supports change is possible.
The Mindfulness Code: Keys for Overcoming Stress, Anxiety, Fear, and Unhappiness (Donald Altman)
This book discusses depression and anxiety within the context of our exceptionally fast-paced modern lifestyle. It uses brain science and mindfulness practice to suggest everyday strategies that can be used to harness a less encumbered state of mind. This is a great book for those who wish to explore mindfulness and are new to its practice - essentially, learning to live more 'in the present moment,' while not allowing more disingenuous states of mind overwhelm us. Several of our clients have found this book to be a helpful adjunct to therapy.
In Search of Happiness: Understanding an Endangered State of Mind (John F. Schumaker)
Schumaker takes us through a thoughtful critique of what it means to be happy in a postmodern age that emphasizes consumer-driven definitions of success and well-being. The reader will begin to question what happiness means to them. Schumaker makes a strong argument for sustainable forms of happiness and against materialistic cultural assumptions that would see us 'work ourselves to death, then spend our money on the biggest coffin we can afford.' While not quite a 'self-help' book, the 'happiness keys' spread throughout the book offer thoughts and insights that are worth the read alone.
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., Text Revision). Washington, DC.