I often tell my clients there are two main myths about depression. The first is this: “depression is completely controllable.” That’s not true. Here’s the reality: there is a lot in life outside your control. At times, this may even include your mood, your energy level, or even the automatic thoughts that keep showing up. But there’s also another myth that needs busting. It’s the one that says, “There’s nothing you can do about depression.”
How Does Counseling Help Depression?
Debunking both myths is an important task when beginning to deal with depression. When we do this, we arrive at a more accurate and balanced statement about depression and counseling. While negative mood symptoms are not 100% controllable, depression is still a widely treatable experience overall. In fact, there is much you or your loved one can do to help. Counseling is one of the most effective forms of treatment for depression. So, how does it help? Here are 4 ways counseling improves symptoms of depression:
Counseling for Depression Educates you on Mental Health
It’s easy to stay fuzzy on matters of “mental health.” That phrase itself causes us to think more about a small subset of the population that we believe have “real issues.” But the truth is, every person has mental and emotional life. Just like you have a physical life, social life, intellectual, spiritual, etc., we believe ALL PEOPLE should tend to their internal world: their emotions, relationships, thoughts and beliefs.
Depression is an emotional and behavioral experience. We will all experience “the blues,” getting stuck in a tough place from time to time. That’s normal. However, you may show a consistent and significant pattern of struggle. (Click here to know when it’s time to begin counseling for depression). Regardless, “taking care of yourself” should not be exclusive to a select group who meets certain criteria. Whatever your intensity with depression, learning about how your mood is impacted will allow you to respond differently to the symptoms of depression. Education on depression will show you, first, that you’re not the only one, and second, that what you’re feeling is (in one sense) quite normal. This kind of knowledge is not mere theory. It actually leads you to break the vicious cycle of depression or mood problems.
Here’s a typical bad cycle of depression when a person doesn’t understand what’s going on: symptoms of depression, a “freak out” response, more depression symptoms, and then a more intense “freak out” response – a cycle that continues until you break it.
But when you get educated and empowered, you move in a more positive direction – and break the cycle:
Counseling for depression gives you a New Emotional Experience and replaces isolation
In talking with hundreds of clients who have felt depression symptoms, we often hear them describe their experience with words such as: isolated, alone, misunderstood, unseen, forgotten, rejected, failing. However, in counseling, you do something radically different than what depression normally causes you do. In therapy, you share this experience with another human. You talk with someone who can validate the difficulty, be with you in the struggle, but also help you implement a plan with solutions likely to work for you.
One of the greatest “tricks” of depression is that as it worsens, it leads you to keep your experience more to yourself. If it does impact relationships, it “comes out” usually in ways that do more harm than good. However, in counseling, you can share your experience of difficult emotions with a person who can remain connected in helpful ways. In real life, depression often complicates relationships. Further, unhealthy or difficult relationships also fuel the experience of depression. But in the professional counseling relationship, you bring your difficult feelings into the process as a first step of finding help. Since counseling is with a skilled professional, you find someone who can 1) validate the difficulty, 2) be with you in them, and 3) offer helpful strategies or solutions.
Depression Counseling gives you Effective Skills for Healthy Coping
As we have alluded, counseling for depression is not just about validation and a positive emotional experience (though it certainly includes that). Effective depression treatment also includes finding practical things to do that will positively impact your mood, both in the short and long-term. We think of “treatment” as things to help in the short-term, where you find yourself at present. When things get difficult:
· How can you begin coping in more helpful way? What can you do?
· Who can you connect with?
· How can you “talk back” to the depressive thoughts?
These are the skills developed in the counseling treatment process. But we also think of “prevention” when offering counseling services for depression. Now that things have improved in the short-term, how can you maintain a more positive mood long-term? What things might help prevent this experience from returning in this same manner? Therapy not only deals with the “fruit” of present symptoms, but also explores “the roots” that were long at play long before the tipping point was reached.
Counseling helps you Get Clear on What Matters
As you gain knowledge of depression in general, as well as your specific experience, you will find your mood improving. Ultimately, the result of this counseling experience will be a greater clarity on what really matters in your life. Growing through this experience has helped you get clear on the priorities for your life. You might get more organized with certain things, or spend time doing the activities that really bring you joy. You will hopefully invest more in the relationships that matter most. You may also learn that other relationships can be given less importance. Coming through an experience like depression will certainly make you more prepared to meet the next challenge of life. There will certainly be challenges – but next time, you’ll have a back pocket full of coping skills to bring to the challenge. You may even be able to recognize symptoms of depression in those around you more easily and have a unique ability to encourage them to seek the help that might just change their life.
If you have any questions about depression counseling, contact us for more information.