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Depression Counseling: What to Expect?

Katelyn Brenner FNP

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 07/15/2021

Updated 07/16/2021

Depression is a lot of things. It’s waking up, immediately burdened by an overwhelming sense of sadness

It’s struggling to concentrate at work while doing your best to shake off feelings of hopelessness and constantly feeling like you're in a depression funk.

To some, it’s also unexplained aches and pains around your body, cramps, appetite changes or even a noticeable change in the way you speak. 

Very worryingly, depression can be creeping thoughts of death, suicide or even attempts at suicide.

The point is, depression can be many different things to many different people. It’s all real, it’s all valid and none of it feels good.

As a serious mental health issue, depression requires a sense of urgency in its management. This is why efforts to treat this condition should be handled with appropriate care. 

To help with treating this disorder, counseling for depression is highly recommended either alone or alongside trusted medications. 

But how exactly do speaking sessions with a professional help with managing depression and its symptoms?

Types of Depression

An added thing to know about depression is that this condition is far reaching. It doesn’t matter your economic background, ethnicity or age — depression has been known to affect a wide range of people. 

It is, however, most prevalent in adulthood. 

While genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors may be to blame for this condition (which we’ve previously covered in our guide, Most Common Causes of Depression), to be considered depression, symptoms that affect how you think, feel and go about your daily activities have to be present for at least two weeks. 

This is known as major depression.

There are some exceptions to this timeline, which is why familiarizing yourself with the different types of depression is important:

Persistent Depressive Disorder

This refers to feelings of depression that last for at least two years. 

With this condition, you may experience periods of major depression, but these are usually offset by intervals with less severe symptoms of this illness.

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression usually presents with severe symptoms that are usually accompanied with delusions. 

These delusions usually cloud reality and may cause false beliefs such as unrealistic ideas about personal capacities — for instance, a person may genuinely believe that they are able to fly. 

Psychotic depression may also lead to hallucinations where voices or things that are not present are frequently observed.

Seasonal Affective Disorder 

This form of depression comes and goes with the seasons. In particular, it is noticeable in the winter months where there is less sunshine to work with. 

The appropriately labelled SAD has noticeable signs that include reclusiveness in the winter months, more hours spent sleeping and sometimes weight gain. 

Seasonal affective disorder is usually lifted during the spring and summer months.

However, it’s worth noting that SAD does affect people in other seasons, as well.

Bipolar Disorder

In certain cases, bipolar disorder may be classified as a form of depression due to the periods of very low moods people typically experience with this condition.

What is Depression Counseling?

Counseling is a form of talk therapy or psychotherapy. This treatment looks to offer emotional support to people suffering from depression, especially for the effects it has on their lives and wellbeing.

Online counseling can help a person living with depression explore whatever issues may be responsible for their feelings, and may be a useful treatment for providing relief.

To help with managing depression, a counselor may adopt generic features of therapy used to generally tend to and improve mental health. 

Alternately, they may follow a model specifically crafted to manage the symptoms of depression. 

Who Should Try Depression Counseling?

If you live with depression — especially in a mild to moderate form — you may want to consider counseling. 

This form of therapy is also ideal if you struggle with depressive symptoms, but are just a few conditions short of meeting the depression threshold. 

This could be applicable where you are experiencing symptoms of depression, but are yet to meet the two-week mark, or if you’re experiencing some symptoms of depression, but not others.

Counseling is also recommended if you have tried individual or group forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise (Yes! regular exercise helps with depression) and other self-help treatments without satisfactory results for your depression.

What to Expect in Depression Counseling

To help manage mild to moderate forms of this condition, you can expect a counselor for depression to actively listen to your challenges and respond with empathy. 

This approach is necessary because depression often skews our views and any estimations of our abilities. 

Through counseling, this distorted way of reasoning may be corrected through techniques that set aside the negative thoughts that may be responsible for persistent depression. 

Therapy may also help encourage participation in activities that bring pleasure, and discourage dysfunctional forms of thinking.

Through these means, counseling can help restore a patient’s balance and normal functioning.

Benefits of Depression Counseling

Because depression can have such a strong hold on your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, it may appear far-fetched to simply talk through your challenges with hopes of a positive outcome. 

However, counseling, like other forms of therapy, can be very useful for helping to overcome depression. 

Here are benefits you may enjoy from speaking with a trusted professional:

  • Counseling can help to identify problem areas in your life that may be contributing to your depression. A counselor can help with navigating these issues to improve your condition.

  • Through counseling, you can get a hold of the negative thoughts that typically lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. This can help to transform thinking patterns for the better.

  • Beyond thoughts, counseling can make you aware of possible behaviors you may be practicing that may contribute to your depression. It can then help with changing these behaviors.

  • Counseling also helps to see a world beyond depression. It can assist with re-introducing fulfilling activities back into life following periods of sadness.

Very importantly, counseling is also an effective treatment for depression. But just how effective is it?

Does Counseling Work for Depression?

Despite being a very common and yet serious mental disorder, depression stands out for being a treatable illness.

Around 80 percent to 90 percent of people with this condition respond to treatment, and counseling may contribute to this statistic.

In an analysis that reviewed studies for depression and anxiety treatments, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), counseling and problem solving therapy were stacked against each other.

The results found that there were hardly any differences between the positive effects of each treatment for managing anxiety and depression.

Likewise, in another review where counseling or nondirective supportive therapy (NDST) and CBT were compared, researchers again found very few distinctions in the effects counseling had on treating depression in patients when compared with CBT.

The same results were found when seven forms of psychotherapy were compared — counseling included — to determine how well each worked against depression. 

Despite questions being raised on the effects of counseling in trials where a large number of participants were involved, this form of treatment was still recognized for its value in improving symptoms of depression.

Finding Depression Counseling

With the help of empathy and an active listening ear, counseling has stepped in to become an effective treatment method for depression.

Like other forms of therapy, speaking with a counselor can help change a negative perception of life to allow for a more helpful and appreciative stance. 

Changing thinking patterns can help remove the feelings of hopelessness and despair that are the defining features of depression. 

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