Treating Depression with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

How can cognitive behavioral therapy help me manage depression?

The author Barbara Kingsolver understood what it’s like to deal with depression when she wrote in The Bean Trees that “there’s no point in treating a depressed person as though they were just sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’”

The truth, as anyone who has dealt with depression knows, is that it’s not like a stubbed toe, skinned knee, or head cold that will heal or pass with time. The symptoms — feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, frustration, or anger; loss of interest in things that normally bring you joy; fatigue; weight changes; thoughts of suicide — can’t be hidden under a bandage or improved with some hot soup, a nice nap, a big mug of tea, or, least of all, a pep talk.

Turning the Page on Depression

Depression is difficult and painful. It can arise from trauma or a stressful situation. It can be passed down in families (either genetics or through modeled emotional responses), meaning you might be predisposed to it. It’s even associated with the change of seasons, meaning the “most wonderful time of the year” is often troubling for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

It takes work to manage or overcome depression.

But it doesn’t have to take forever.

You can make profound changes that last a lifetime, without committing to a lifetime of therapy.

Sounds like “snake oil”? The answer is grounded in science, called Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT.

CBT is the most widely researched and highly regarded therapy used by clinical and behavioral health scientists. That’s because it produces positive results, efficiently.

Bring Your Goals to Mind

CBT is targeted to your challenges or goals. Instead of spending months or years with a yielding therapist who listens while you unfurl decades-old problems, you and your clinician will work collaboratively, actively, and directly to resolve what’s bothering you right now.  

Most clients see meaningful improvements in their depressive symptoms after just a few sessions. (That’s not surprising, by the way. Research shows most therapeutic benefit happens in the first few sessions of treatment.)

“CBT works to help you produce lasting change.”

But just because CBT delivers on a short timeframe doesn’t make it a short-cut, quick fix where the outcomes are fleeting, too.

CBT works to help you produce lasting change. Here’s how.

CBT is based on the theory that our feelings (which are often marked by body sensations like sweating or lethargy as well as by pure emotions) are linked with our thoughts and behaviors. So, in that sense, mental wellness is something like a three-legged stool. Each leg has to be in balance with the others, or the entire thing will tip over.

Let’s say you’re feeling depressed and crying a lot. Your thoughts might be about how hopeless life is or how worthless you are (please remember: thoughts aren’t necessarily facts.) As for your behaviors, maybe you’re parked under the covers all day, avoiding your friends, missing work, or not even interested in your hobbies anymore. (Face it: Those weepy Lifetime movies or intense WWII dramas you’re bingeing aren’t exactly helping.)

As each of those things — feelings, thoughts, and behaviors — influences the others, pretty soon you’re headed for a fall.

But are you, really? Is there no way to climb out, to bring the three legs back into balance?

After all, if feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can influence one another negatively, who’s to say they can’t have the same impact if used positively?

The fact is, they can. And that’s the premise of using the CBT approach for depression and mood regulation.

Making a positive shift in one area can change the entire system for the better.

If you examine your thoughts and reframe your perspectives, or alter your behavior, you can break free from the spiral of depression. If you don’t feel great, but you see yourself acting as if you do, then your self-esteem will grow, and your depression will lessen.

Therapy Lab can help you get there.

A Plan to Help You Deal with Depression

Our 16-session Anxiety & Mood Plan is a sequential flow of evidence-based therapy that incorporates CBT, mindfulness, and exposures, all guided by a dedicated therapist. Or, in plain English, it’s an opportunity for you to look inward, find out more about yourself, and learn strategies for restructuring unhelpful self-talk, thoughts, and behaviors.  

The Plan is

  • Time-limited. We recommend a specific number of sessions based on the literature for each treatment goal.
  • Science-based.  We believe that science is underutilized in therapy practices. We enjoy providing smart therapy with the greatest likelihood of helping clients and are continuously fine-tuning our science-based approach.
  • Goal-directed. You’re in charge of treatment goals. You determine the areas you want to work on.
  • Outcomes-driven. We measure baseline symptoms and general well-being at intake and again at the close of treatment. We use this data to drive decisions about treatment.  

We won’t delve endlessly into your past (unless we find some utility in dipping into your past, that is). We don’t specialize in platitudes and we will call out your excuses if need be. What we will do is help you feel freer to experience joy and human connection, making your own story one that’s happier and more fulfilling.

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