Management & Leadership

Mental-health heroes: How depression counsellors save lives

Feb 20, 2017
Depression Counselling

Far more serious than just a simple case of the blues, depression is a debilitating condition that can have a crippling effect on sufferers and, in extreme cases, can even be life-threatening. However, depression is also treatable and counsellors and psychotherapists who are skilled in dealing with the condition are, in many respects, the lifesavers of the mental-health world.

Trained to help patients gain a better understanding of their condition and to provide guidance on how to cope with life’s challenges, depression counsellors use a range – and often a combination – of treatment options. While these therapies may differ in approach and intended outcome, one thing they all have in common is their focus on the here and now, and not on why the patient is depressed or what went wrong in the past (both of which tend to simply exacerbate negative feelings).
Here, we explain five of the therapies that have proven most effective in treating depression:

1. Behavioural Therapy

The premise behind this therapy is that our behaviours rather than our inner processes dictate our moods. So, if we feel miserable it is because of the way in which we act and react to the events of our daily lives. Traditional behavioural therapists are less interested in the thoughts and emotions of their patients and more concerned with their behaviours, as these can be observed. While changing one’s actions can have dramatic results, it is generally agreed that people’s perceptions and thought processes are also vitally important when overcoming depression.

2. Cognitive Therapy

One of the most widely used depression-treatment therapies, this talking therapy is based on the premise that the way we think affects the way we feel. People who suffer from the depression tend to have self-defeating thoughts (which, in turn, can lead to negative behaviours), and cognitive therapy aims to help them identify and address these negative thoughts. In most cases, the therapy combines a cognitive approach (examining thoughts) with a behavioural approach (the things we do) and it works to break overwhelming problems down into smaller parts, making them easier to manage.

3. Interpersonal Therapy

Relationships are part and parcel of what makes us human. For the most part, they enrich our lives and offer vital social interaction. However, they can also be incredibly complex and the ways in which we deal with them may have a significant impact on our mental wellbeing. The thinking behind interpersonal therapy is that psychological symptoms, such as depression, are typically a response to a difficulty in our communication with others. As such, this therapy focuses on how our relationships affect us as well as on how our mental health affects our relationships.

4. Solutions-focused Therapy

As its name suggests, this therapy emphasises finding answers to current problems and concentrating on future wellness rather than past hurts. A relatively new approach to treating depression, this client-directed, outcome-based therapy helps patients look ahead to a future free from depression, rather than at the things that caused the condition. This is not to say that the past is ignored entirely but the main emphasis is on teaching new skills and keeping therapy brief and focused. It is an extremely hopeful and motivational form of therapy when applied skilfully.

5. Mindfulness-based Therapy

Combining elements of cognitive therapy and mindfulness techniques (such as breathing exercises and meditation), this therapy is specifically designed to help break negative thought patterns and has proved particularly effective in treating those who suffer from recurring depression. Mindfulness-based therapy teaches patients to see their true selves – their sense of being – as separate from their thoughts and moods. This disconnect can liberate them from thought patterns in which the same negative messages are replayed over and over again. Insight contributes to healing by helping them learn to interject positive thoughts into negative moods in order to disarm those negative moods.

Treating individuals with different types of depression takes a very special type of person with certain traits and qualities. Depression therapists should be accepting and non-judgmental, for instance, as well as excellent listeners with a genuine interest in helping others. If this sounds like you, why not consider studying at The South African College of Applied Psychology? SACAP offers a range of courses in counselling, including a BPsych degreewhich is accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and leads to professional registration with the HPCSA as a Registered Counsellor. This means, once you have this qualification, you can practise as a Registered Counsellor with the scope outlines by the HPCSA  in community and private settings.For more information, enquire now.

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