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What do people do in therapy for depression

Aug 17

If you or someone you know has a mental health condition, it's important to seek treatment. Talk therapy and medicines can help.

Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists can all offer talk therapy. This includes one-to-one sessions, group therapy and interpersonal therapy. It helps people with depression by teaching them new ways to think and behave.

Talk therapy

Talk therapy is a recommended treatment for many mental health conditions, and it can also benefit people without any specific diagnosis. It can help them overcome insecurities, deal with traumatic experiences, and learn to cope with stress. It may even improve sleep and reduce long-term risks of mental illness.

There are several types of psychotherapy or talk therapy, each with its own method of treatment. One common approach is cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing negative patterns of thinking and behavior. Other types of therapy include humanistic therapy, which emphasizes growth from within and aims to change self-limiting beliefs.

Although talk therapy can be emotional or uncomfortable, it is important to remember that a therapist should never force a person to discuss events or experiences that are too painful. In addition, a person should feel free to ask their therapist questions about anything they are struggling with. They should also feel free to decline discussion of certain topics, as they may not be ready to talk about them yet.


Some mental illnesses respond well to medication, including antidepressants and antipsychotics. These medicines change the chemicals in your brain, so you have fewer symptoms. It's important to take your medications exactly as your doctor prescribes them.

A psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker can diagnose a mental health disorder. They use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, to make a diagnosis. Your primary care physician also can help you with a diagnosis and refer you to a specialist.

Serious mental illnesses can interfere with your ability to work, go to school, have relationships and live a normal life. But with treatment—usually a combination of therapy and medicine—you can manage your condition and get back to living a full life. Addressing stigma is critical to ensuring that people with mental illness receive the care they need. There are many ways to help reduce stigma, including providing education and raising awareness about mental illnesses.

Brain-stimulation treatments

Brain-stimulation therapies use electrical or magnetic pulses to alter the function of brain circuits and treat depression. They can be used alone or with other treatments, including medication and therapy.

In a double-blind study, high doses of magnetic brain stimulation caused remission in 79% of participants with severe depression. The treatment is called Stanford accelerated intelligent neuromodulation therapy, or SAINT. The team mapped the parts of the brain that become active when a person is depressed and then delivered an individualized form of magnetic stimulation, which lasted 10 minutes a day for five days.

MUSC’s Brain Stimulation Clinic is the first in South Carolina to offer repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). During rTMS, a patient sits comfortably while an electromagnetic coil is placed on their head. Electromagnets then emit short magnetic pulses that simulate nerve cell activity in the targeted brain area. rTMS is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression and has also been shown to help people with OCD, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and smoking cessation.


A mental health diagnosis is based on the nature, severity and impact of symptoms, as well as risk factors and any co-existing medical issues (for example, depression often goes hand-in-hand with thyroid problems). A therapist or psychologist makes the diagnosis, but sometimes primary care doctors get involved in the process when the signs and symptoms relate to or mimic other illnesses.

Getting diagnosed and treated isn’t easy, but the vast majority of people with serious mental illness improve to the point that their condition no longer significantly interferes with daily life activities and they find a sense of fulfillment and meaning in their lives. Untreated mental illness can lead to disability, poor quality of life, unnecessary incarceration, substance abuse and even suicide. Addressing stigma and raising awareness are critical.