By Rebekah Todd
It’s summer, and the weather is nice and warm, the sun is bright and shining, and yet, maybe you find yourself uninterested in your usual activities. Maybe you’re noticing that you’re sleeping more than usual. You might have a sense of sadness, guilt, or even doom that lingers over your head like a rain cloud. These feelings might indicate a depressive disorder, but they could also simply be an indicator of normal mood swings. Either way, a licensed therapist can help. Together, you and your therapist can collaborate on ways to address thought and behavior patterns, and develop skills to combat what you’re feeling.
What are the symptoms of depression?
As you address your symptoms, your therapist will be there to walk with you through each step. You can start by considering if you’ve experienced any of the following: poor appetite, trouble sleeping, low energy, difficulty concentrating, feeling sad or hopeless, and/or diminished pleasure in activities. If you found yourself reading that list thinking, “That’s me,” you can know you’re not alone. Having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have depression, but even if you’ve only experienced one of those symptoms, mental health counseling could help.
How therapy treats depression
This often depends on the therapist that you see. Therapists have many different ways of treating and collaborating with their clients to address their specific needs. You can likely expect some questions about what your “normal” feeling consists of, and how your physical body feels on a regular basis.
After that, therapists will likely explore patterns, and habits that you have experienced. Maybe there was a major life event that you can point to as the beginning of this change in behavior. A therapist can journey with you through the emotions and experiences that have led to your current mood. You will likely also work on some skills you can take into your daily life to aid in your treatment.
Skills to consider
Your therapist may ask you to begin simply “noticing” when you feel these symptoms, or even to jot a quick journal entry about them.
One model often used is called the ABC model. When you’re thinking about the sadness or lack of motivation you feel, you might start to notice what activates those reactions. The ABC’s are
- The “Activating” event (ie: maybe a bad day at work)
- Your “Beliefs” about that event (“I’m no good at my job.”)
- The “Consequences” of the event; (No one would care if I disappeared/calling out of work)
As you notice the “ABC’s”, you can begin to notice if this creates a pattern in your life, and talk it through with your counselor.
Another tool often used is called, “Thought Defusion.” In this mindfulness practice, you begin to notice your thoughts and simply look at them, instead of judging, or trying to change them. You can begin to picture your thoughts as if they are a leaf floating down the river; letting thoughts float in and out of your mind without believing and engaging with them.
There are many skills you can utilize that your therapist might introduce, but these are just two to give you an idea of what session skills might look like.
What about medication?
For some people, the symptoms discussed above, can be treated through talk therapy, and skill interventions. For others, medication can provide a sense of clarity and hope that they weren’t able to get through counseling alone. Antidepressants aid in increasing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin and dopamine. This can help you get over the hump of some of the most distressing, and debilitating symptoms. A combination of medication and counseling can often treat the symptoms, and the root cause.
If you have questions about anti-depressant medication, your therapist will be happy to discuss options with you. Licensed professional counselors do not provide prescriptions or medication, but they can talk with you through the benefits and side effects of antidepressants. This is a personal decision that is ultimately up to you, but a therapist can provide support in your decision-making process regarding medication.
Combatting the blues; don’t do it alone
The National Institute of Mental Health estimated 21 million adults in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode. If any of this has resonated with you, please know you’re not alone.
If you have feelings of hopelessness or suicide, please call the The Suicide and Crisis hotline at 988.
If you think you might be ready to chat with a therapist, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are honored to walk with you on your journey toward healing. You don’t have to suffer alone.
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