In my last blog, I reviewed the types of depression and their associated symptoms. Once depression has been identified, the next step involves getting a good idea of what the current state of your depression is, in terms of severity. Finding ways to help depression treatment is important. Therapists often use what’s referred to as “tools” or “instruments” to help pinpoint the present state of their client’s mental health. These methods are not utilized for diagnostic purposes, but to assist the client and counselor in understanding the problem, and forming an appropriate treatment plan.
One such therapeutic aide I use in my practice is called the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). This assessment is a self-reporting, multiple choice questionnaire regarding depressive symptoms (i.e., How sad are you?) with answer options based on the degree of symptom severity (mild/moderate/severe). After completing the 21-question survey, it is also self-scored and the numeric total helps identify the level of depression.
This a valuable tool for my clients, because the depression often makes it difficult to find the right words on their own, to describe how they’re feeling. Typically, after our initial visit together, I ask my client to fill out the questionnaire and share the results with me.
The BDI is a free service available online, so it’s easy to find and can be taken by anyone at any time. I tell my clients to just Google it, as there are many references. For people not already in depression treatment, taking the inventory can be useful in deciding if they want to reach out to a therapist or not. If they find their score remains consistent over time, it may be time to seek professional help in alleviating symptoms.
Because how we feel varies from one day to the next, our answers to the questions might change each time we take the inventory. I find it helpful to have clients review their feeling choices every 30 days. This process assists us in marking our progress in the depression treatment. After a few months of counseling, if the score remains the same, we may need to change the course of treatment. What areas have improved? Which need more work? How should our therapeutic focus be altered to better relieve those symptoms and accomplish our goals?
Anyone struggling with chronic depression should also have an annual physical examination, and I strongly recommend it to all my clients. Many medical illnesses and diseases can underlie depressive symptoms, and it’s essential to rule out possible physical causes before attempting to change the emotional state through counseling. It is also possible that pharmacologic drugs you are already taking may be causing the side effect of depression. In this case, a drug or dosage change alone could be the alleviating factor and depression treatment can be impacted by this.
Family history may also play a role in depression, as studies have found a predisposition to mental illness. If one family member is depressed, others are likely depressed too. It’s also been discovered that if one person has good luck with a particular drug, it’s likely other family members will benefit from it as well.
There are two major classifications of depression treatment: Medical and psychotherapeutic. Research on depression has shown that a combination of the two works best, utilizing drugs and psychological counseling to overcome symptoms. Drugs help lift mood and bring back hope, which can make taking other life improvement steps easier. Antidepressant drugs are available in many different forms and types, and may be prescribed by a family doctor. Seeing a psychiatrist is not necessary unless specialized help is needed.
Regardless of therapeutic choice, the ultimate goal is to achieve a good mood and have a complete or significant remission of depressive symptoms. It’s important to at least get to a level of depression that is manageable, and allows the person to resume normal functioning in their daily lives.
Alternative treatments proven to be helpful include regular physical exercise, which provides a “natural high,” stimulating feel-good endorphins in the body. Proper nutrition can also greatly affect our moods, and strong connections have been made between obesity and depression. Other beneficial options may include acupuncture, massage therapy, aromatherapy, and music therapy, as well as socialization. Spending time with people and in enjoyable activities, perhaps in volunteer service, are all great ways to feel better and boost mood.
The interventions chosen, or the techniques therapists select, should always be based on clients’ circumstances. The best therapists are skilled in many different approaches, not trained in just one. While the most common therapy is still cognitive based “change of thoughts,” the benefits of EFT (emotionally-based therapy) are clearly significant as well, as discussed in some of my previous blogs.
If you have any questions about the information on the depression treatment i’ve provided here, please leave your comments below. Recognizing and taking action to alleviate depression will undoubtedly improve the quality of your life and the lives of those around you. I’d be happy to help you step back into the light.