Treatments for Depression — What Really Works?

What are the best treatments for depression? It’s the big question, right? The million dollar one. O.k., here we go.

If your depression is moderate to severe, meaning you try, but find it phenomenally difficult, to get out of your own way, medication is probably in order.

Some people are really opposed to medication. They believe it changes who they are. As I talk about in my book, this is an interesting idea.

Our brains change as we live our lives. Health, everyday stress and trauma all add to the picture. Medication can bring us back to a state of balance.

So what do you do if you want to try medication? How do you find a good psychiatrist? What information should you bring to him/her? How do you become your own best advocate? Check out the page Finding a Psychiatrist for some suggestions and a mood form that you may find helpful.

In addition to medication, or sometimes in its place, Cognitive Behavioral therapy helps greatly with the treatment of depression. What is Cognitive Behavioral therapy? In short, it’s a combination of cognitive and behavioral techniques. Cognitive therapy addresses how we think. If your thoughts are distorted (“I’m a loser,” “Who would want me? I look like a pig,”) this therapy challenges these thoughts and teaches you to add more realistic statements to your internal tape. (And no, it doesn’t teach you to flatter yourself falsely, but rather, to speak to yourself honestly.)

Behavioral Therapy addresses your behaviors and challenges those that are self-defeating. Suppose you say you want to be sober, but you spend all your time hanging around people who drink a lot. Sounds like your behavior needs to be changed. If your goal is truly what you say, this type of therapy helps you change your sabotaging behaviors.

There are lots of techniques used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Go to Cognitive behavioral techniques to read about many of these. I think you will walk away with ideas about how to change your thinking.

My other suggestion is to work with a therapist who does cognitive behavioral work. Most therapists do. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) lists social workers throughout the country. You can go to their website at You can also read the write-ups of therapists affiliated with your insurance plan. Another idea is to call well-known psychiatric hospitals(if they happen to be near you) and learn about staff affiliated with them. You can also ask friends and your primary care doctor for a therapist referral. If you happen to live in my area, feel free to contact me. I am not always available, but if I am not, I will try and offer a suggestion. Go to Contct Information for a link to my practice. I do a lot of cognitive behavioral work, but as I say, I believe most therapists do.

The other thing I want to offer is the nine-month plan for pummeling depression that I write about in my book If I Could Just Snap Out of It, Don’t You Think I Would? The plan is divided into two parts: a behavioral part and a cognitive part. Go to The Nine-Month Plan for a good overview of the plan.

So, in short, both medication and cognitive behavioral treatment work well for the treatment of depression. Other types of therapies also can work; but cognitive behavioral treatment is the most direct at changing how you think in the here and now.