Approaches to therapy

Although therapy can be done in different formats—like family, group, and individual—there also are several different approaches that mental health professionals can take to provide therapy. After talking with the patient about his or her depression, the therapist will decide which approach to use based on the suspected underlying factors contributing to the depression.

Psychodynamic therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is based on the assumption that a person is depressed because of unresolved, generally unconscious conflicts, often stemming from childhood. The goal of this type of therapy is for the patient to understand and better cope with these feelings by talking about the experiences. Psychodynamic therapy is administered over a period of three to four months, although it can last longer, even years.

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy focuses on the behaviors and interactions a depressed patient has with family and friends. The primary goal of this therapy is to improve communication skills and increase self esteem during a short period of time. Therapy usually lasts three to four months and works well for depression caused by mourning, relationship conflicts, major life events, and social isolation.

Psychodynamic and interpersonal therapies help patients resolve depression caused by:

  • Loss (grief)
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Role transitions (such as becoming a mother or a caregiver)

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people with depression to identify and change inaccurate perceptions that they may have of themselves and the world around them. The therapist helps patients establish new ways of thinking by directing attention to both the "wrong" and "right" assumptions they make about themselves and others.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is recommended for patients:

  • Who think and behave in ways that trigger and perpetuate depression.
  • With mild-to-moderate depression as the only treatment or in addition to treatment with antidepressant medication.
  • Who refuse or are unable to take antidepressant medication.
  • Of all ages who have depression that causes suffering, disability, or interpersonal problems.

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