Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Bliss Lavelle

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on April 29, 2024

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Depression is more than simply feeling down. It’s a complicated mental health condition that impacts the lives of millions across the globe. This disorder can change a person’s emotions, thoughts, and the way they approach everyday tasks. The good news is that depression is treatable! There are some effective treatments for depression, from therapy to medication. It’s really important to understand that each person has their own specific needs, so a treatment that helps one individual might not be as helpful for someone else.

Various Treatments for Depression Including Therapy and Medication Options

Working with a therapist can help you better understand your feelings, learn new ways to cope, and create a more positive mindset. There are different kinds of psychotherapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy, which are designed to help you manage the mental and emotional side of depression.


Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for depression that involves structured sessions with a qualified therapist. It provides a safe space to talk about your emotions, thoughts, and actions that are linked to depression. Here are some important points about psychotherapy:

  • Studies: Many studies have shown that psychotherapy can lead to significant improvements in depression symptoms.2
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy for depression works on changing negative thoughts and behaviors.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): This approach centers on making relationships better.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: This therapy helps you uncover and work through deep emotional issues.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines mindfulness techniques with cognitive therapy to help you focus on the present moment and have fewer negative thoughts.

Psychotherapy doesn’t just help reduce the symptoms of depression in the short term; it also gives you the skills you need to take care of your mental health in the long run. By trying different types of therapy, you can find the best path for your healing process.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a targeted method for treating depression that works effectively by directly changing negative thoughts and behaviors. It’s structured, focused on specific goals, and requires the person getting treatment to take an active role. CBT Works like this:

  • Changing Negative Thoughts: CBT helps you recognize and question the negative ways of thinking that add to your depression symptoms.
  • Changing Behaviors: It also pushes you to develop healthier behaviors that boost your mood and overall well-being.
  • Building Skills: You’ll learn coping techniques that give you the power to handle challenges and emotional stress more healthily.
  • Proof That It Works: CBT has gone through a lot of rigorous testing and is highly effective for depression. Studies have proven this.3 It’s especially good at reducing negative thinking.
  • How Long Treatment Lasts: A standard CBT program for depression usually involves 10 to 20 sessions. The exact number depends on how severe your symptoms are and how much progress you make.

CBT’s organized approach doesn’t just help reduce depression symptoms in the short term; it also gives you the tools to take care of your mental health in the long run. This makes it an essential part of well-rounded depression treatment plans.

Quick Tip

What is the most common form of treatment for depression?

The most widely used psychological treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (often abbreviated as “CBT”).

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is a type of therapy that mainly focuses on making your relationships better and improving your social skills to help ease the symptoms of depression. The idea behind IPT is that your relationships and life experiences affect your mood, and working on these interpersonal issues can help improve your emotional health. Here’s what Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is all about:

  • Focus on Relationships: IPT helps you understand and improve the way you interact with other people, which can have a direct impact on your depression symptoms.
  • Dealing with Changes: It helps you navigate tough life transitions that may be contributing to your depression.
  • Resolving Conflicts: The therapy aims to help you resolve conflicts with essential people in your life that could be adding to your depression. 
  • It’s Proven to Work: studies have shown that IPT is especially effective in treating depression by focusing on personal relationships, which are often at the core of a person’s depression.4
  • How It’s Done: IPT is usually done over 12 to 16 weeks. During this time, you work closely with your therapist to identify problems and develop strategies for improving your interpersonal relationships.

Interpersonal Therapy is beneficial for people whose depression is strongly connected to their social interactions and relationships. By making these areas better, IPT not only helps reduce depression symptoms but also improves your overall emotional well-being.

A serious mood disorder causing persistent sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities.
Psychotherapy and medication are two primary treatment options for people struggling with depression. Lifestyle changes and social support can also play a crucial role in recovery.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) include Celexa citalopram, Zoloft, Oralsertralinecymbalta, Cymbalta delayed-release duloxetine, and Pristiqdesvenlafaxine.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies

Mindfulness-based therapies use mindfulness exercises to help people focus on the present moment. This encourages a greater awareness and acceptance of their thoughts and feelings without judging them. This type of therapy is beneficial for managing depression because it helps break the cycle of negative thinking patterns. These are the techniques used in mindfulness-based therapies:

  • Mindfulness Meditation involves sitting quietly and paying attention to your thoughts, sounds, breathing sensations, or parts of your body.
  • Body Scan: This technique involves focusing your attention on different body parts in order, noticing any sensations or discomfort without judging them.
  • Mindful Movement: This includes gentle activities like yoga or walking to connect your body and mind.
    Awareness of Daily Activities: This teaches you to be aware and present during everyday activities, like eating or walking.
  • Reducing Depression Symptoms: Studies show that mindfulness therapies can significantly reduce symptoms of depression by encouraging a state of active, open attention to the present moment5.
  • Improving Emotional Control: Mindfulness helps you better control your emotions and reduces the impact of negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Maintaining Mental Health in the Long Run: These therapies give you tools you can use even after therapy sessions are over, helping you maintain your mental health for the long term.

Mindfulness-based therapies provide a practical way for people to manage their depression more effectively by improving their ability to live in the moment and engage more fully with their lives.

Get Help for Depression at Cornerstone

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Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressant medications are an effective part of treating depression. They work by targeting the chemical imbalances in the brain that are often involved in causing and maintaining depression symptoms. These medications are made to improve the way brain cells communicate and regulate mood. Here’s how antidepressants work, the different types available, and how effective they are:

  • Balancing Neurotransmitters: Antidepressants help balance neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain that control mood and emotions. The most common ones targeted are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
  • Improving Brain Communication: By adjusting the levels of these neurotransmitters, antidepressants can improve the neural pathways that have been damaged by depression.
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These increase serotonin levels in the brain to improve mood. They’re often the first choice because they have a lower risk of side effects.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): These are older than SSRIs and work by affecting multiple neurotransmitters, but they can have more severe side effects.
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): These are usually used as a last resort because they can interact seriously with certain foods and drugs. They also affect neurotransmitter levels.
  • Proof That They Work: Studies have shown that antidepressants are effective in managing the biochemical pathways involved in depression. This makes them an essential part of comprehensive treatment plans.6
  • Things to Keep in Mind: While antidepressants are effective, they don’t work right away. It may take several weeks to notice improvements, and finding the proper medication or dosage can take time and patience.

When appropriately used, often along with therapy, antidepressants can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression. They provide essential biochemical support that works together with other types of treatment to address both the biological and psychological aspects of depression.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that doctors often prescribe to treat depression. They are preferred because they work well and are generally considered safer than older antidepressants. How SSRIs work, their potential side effects, and their clinical effectiveness:

  • Boosting Serotonin: SSRIs block serotonin’s reabsorption (reuptake) in the brain. This makes more serotonin available, improving message transmission between neurons.
  • Popular SSRIs: Some of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and citalopram (Celexa).
  • Benefits: These medications are known for their ability to help ease the symptoms of depression, improve mood, boost energy levels, and restore interest in daily activities.
  • Common Side Effects: These can include nausea, headaches, drowsiness, dry mouth, and sexual problems.
  • Long-term Considerations: Weight gain and a higher risk of feeling emotionally numb or having withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication are also concerns with long-term use.
  • Research Support: Studies confirm that SSRIs are effective in treating depression because they can manage serotonin levels safely and effectively.7

SSRIs are often the first choice for treating depression because they have relatively mild side effects and are effective in treating major depressive disorders. They represent a significant step forward in antidepressant therapy, providing many patients with much-needed relief from the challenges of depression.

Key Takeaways

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are an older type of antidepressant medication that is often used in newer treatments. They are known for their solid effects and wide-reaching action on various neurotransmitters. How TCAs Work, considerations of Usage, it’s clinical effectiveness and differences from SSRIs:

  • Effect on Neurotransmitters: Unlike SSRIs, which mainly affect serotonin, TCAs impact a broader range of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and sometimes dopamine. This helps improve mood and emotional balance.
  • Targeting More Neurotransmitters: TCAs change the levels of multiple neurotransmitters, making them effective but sometimes more challenging to tolerate because they have a broader biological impact.
  • Side Effect Profile: They generally have more significant side effects than SSRIs, which selectively target serotonin reuptake.
    When They’re Used: Doctors typically consider TCAs in treatment-resistant cases where other antidepressants haven’t provided enough relief.
  • Side Effects: Common side effects include dizziness, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, and weight gain. Because of their anticholinergic effects, they can also cause significant drowsiness and are more dangerous if someone takes too much.
  • Effectiveness in Treatment-Resistant Depression: Despite their side effects, TCAs are effective in managing severe and complex depression cases, as noted.8

Tricyclic antidepressants are still a valuable tool in the psychiatric toolbox, especially for patients who don’t respond to more commonly prescribed medications. Using them requires careful management to balance effectiveness with potential side effects, highlighting the importance of close monitoring by healthcare professionals.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is one of the most misunderstood treatments in psychiatry. Yet, it remains an effective treatment option, especially for severe cases of depression that don’t respond to medication and psychotherapy. Historical context, considerations, modern application, and effectiveness in severe cases:

  • Origins: ECT has been used since the 1930s and was initially developed to treat severe psychiatric conditions.
  • Changes Over Time: The procedure and equipment have significantly improved safety and fewer side effects.
  • Procedure: Today, ECT is done under general anesthesia, with muscle relaxants used to prevent movement. Electrical currents are carefully controlled to cause a brief seizure in the brain.
  • Settings: It’s typically done in a hospital by a team of medical professionals, including psychiatrists, anesthesiologists, and nurses.
  • Fast Relief: ECT is mainly known for its rapid relief from depression symptoms, often working when other treatments have failed.
  • Recommendations: It’s most commonly recommended for patients with severe depression, those who are suicidal, or patients who have psychosis or severe mania.
  • Memory Issues: One of the biggest concerns with ECT is its potential to cause short-term memory loss and, in rare cases, long-term memory problems.
  • Stigma and Wrong Ideas: Despite how well it works, ECT often faces stigma due to historical misuse and portrayals in media, which don’t accurately show how it’s practiced today.

ECT stands out as a critical option in the fight against severe depression, offering a lifeline for those whose conditions haven’t improved with traditional therapies. Its use today reflects a balance between historical techniques and modern medical practices, ensuring safety and maximizing therapeutic benefits.

How Cornerstone Can Help You

Choosing the right treatment plan for depression is truly important, as it varies a lot from person to person. How well any therapy works depends not just on the type of depression but also on your individual situation and health conditions. We strongly encourage those struggling with depression to talk to healthcare providers to create a treatment that best meets their specific needs.

At Cornerstone Healing Center, we are dedicated to helping people cope with depression through a wide range of services and treatments. Our approach combines various types of therapy, including psychotherapy, medication management, and innovative treatments like mindfulness-based therapies and ECT. All of these are designed to support and improve mental health recovery. We aim to provide a caring, understanding environment where people can find relief and lasting change.

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Author & Reviewers

bliss lavelle addiction, mental health, and recovery writer

Bliss Lavelle, an aspiring writer, draws inspiration from her mother’s journey with addiction, mental health, and recovery to support and educate others, especially young adults, about the dangers of substance abuse, the importance of mental health awareness, and getting help through evidence-based treatment. 


Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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