Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, has been found to be just as effective as antidepressants in treating depression, says Leonard Holmes, former About.com Guide. In fact, relapse rate is lower in those who had talk therapy than in those who were on medication only.
Antidepressants are great if you actually have a chemical imbalance in your brain, but not everyone does. People go through periods of depression due to painful events or difficult times in their lives. That doesn’t mean they have a chemical imbalance--it means they are having feelings of sadness, fear, anger, frustration, etc., which are just part of living everyday life.
If you have symptoms of depression for more than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to check with your family doctor. She can rule out any possible physical causes of your symptoms and refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist, if necessary.
Much of life is spent going through, and trying to recover from, painful experiences. Medication is not indicated for most people in these circumstances, but other forms of therapy can be very helpful. One of them is talk therapy.
You might be thinking, “I don’t need some shrink telling me what to do,” but it’s not like that. There are many ways that talking with a trained, unbiased professional can help.
Verbalizing your issues can help you:
•Realize the other sides. Remember that there are always (at least) two sides to an issue.
•Unearth your own feelings. Sometimes you don’t realize how you’re feeling until you talk about it. You might be surprised at what you hear coming out of your own mouth!
•Discover deeper roots (such as causes, underlying emotions, etc.). You might be fighting about the toaster, but it’s more likely to be about his forgetting your birthday.
•See that things aren’t always as we perceive them. It might seem clear as glass to you, but the reality might turn out to be something completely different.
Regarding perceptions, consider this scenario:
You’re out with your boyfriend. Suddenly, he leaves you standing there and runs over to a pretty woman who is waving to him. He grabs her up and hugs her with a big smile on his face. You panic, thinking she must be a former girlfriend. You dash out of the place, flag down a taxi, go home, dig into a half gallon of ice cream, and bawl your eyes out. Later, you find that the girl is his cousin who just moved back to town. He hasn’t seen her in years. When he saw her, without stopping to consider what you’d think, he ran to her. When he turned to introduce her, you were gone!
Okay, this is a bit extreme, but you get the picture. Perception is everything, and sometimes your perception is colored by negative thought patterns. Talk therapy can help you identify and work on these patterns.
When participating in talk therapy, you must give 100% in order to get the optimal results. You must be completely honest and forthcoming. Don’t tell part of the story—tell it all. Otherwise, you might just as well stay at home! Also, commit to your therapy. Don’t bail out when the going gets tough. Chances are, it will get painful, but dealing with those painful issues is what it’s all about. And remember to have a folder in which to keep handouts, as well as any assignments your therapist has you do.
Remember that therapy is not magic! It takes time—sometimes lots of time—to get to a better place in your mind, but it’s worth the time, effort and money (many types of health insurance pay at least part on talk therapy). If you are suffering from depression, whether you’re medicated or not, talk therapy is something you should consider. It has helped millions of people, including me, and it could help you, too!
Leonard Holmes, former About.com Guide. About.com: Mental Health. Medications or Psychotherapy for Depression, April 14, 2006.