Research has looked closely at the two ways the mental health profession treats depression: depression counselling and drugs. While evidence suggests that drugs have a more immediate impact, counselling is more effective over the long term.
Also, drugs have side effects that may be worse than the condition they are meant to treat. One scary side effect that has been found with certain anti-depressant medications is suicidal thoughts. This is certainly not something that someone struggling with depression wants from a depression treatment.
The Effects Of Antidepressants
Often, sufferers of depression encounter other undesirable side effects from antidepressant drugs, or find a particular antidepressant doesn’t appear to have any effect on their depression. One study showed that fifty percent of depression suffers tried two or more antidepressants in an effort to find one that worked without serious side effects. Also, studies have shown that the rates of side effects are greater than those described in the drug companies’ literature about the antidepressants they manufacture. A common, disturbing side effect of some anti-depressants is suicidal thoughts.
Just a few other side effects are:
- Weight gain
- Sexual dysfunction
While not everyone who takes a particular antidepressant will encounter the same side effects, all antidepressants appear to cause at least some. Patients can find themselves in the position of choosing a drug based on how well its side effects can be tolerated, rather than the most effective drug.
Talk Therapy, which is what we think of when we talk about depression counselling, is exactly that: discussing personal issues with a therapist as a way of addressing depression. Research shows that while talk therapy combined with antidepressants is the most effective form of treatment, talk therapy alone involving more than twelve visits was almost as effective — without harsh side effects. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, has proven particularly effective for some individuals dealing with depression.
The Right Kind Of Therapist For Depression Counselling
A good place to start in seeking a counsellor is with your physician or medical practitioner. He or she may know therapists in the field and can make a recommendation or referral. Also, don’t be afraid to discuss your condition with friends and family, as they may know someone qualified in the field of therapy.
There are several types of therapists who may be able to help. These include:
- Psychiatrists. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with training specifically in mental health issues. A psychiatrist can provide counselling and also may prescribe medication.
- Psychologists. A psychologist has a degree in psychology and is skilled in treating mental health problems.
- Psychiatric nurses. A psychiatric nurse is a medical nurse whose specialty is psychiatric issues.
- Licensed counsellors. A counsellor has received training in therapy both for individuals and groups.
- Social workers. Typically a social worker has a degree in social work. Some have received training in providing therapy.
In our Hong Kong integrated practice, we offer several types of depression counselling, and also have medical doctors and genetic testing available. For some sufferers of depression, testing for the MTHFR gene complex can offer additional useful therapies for depression involving specific B vitamins. Because we take an integrative approach, we can work with you to choose the most effective therapies for your specific needs.
Working With Your Therapist
Understand that your therapist is here to help. Depression counselling can bring up painful issues, so you need to select a therapist you trust. Also, expect to work with your therapist for at least twelve sessions to maximize your chances of a successful outcome. This is not to say that twelve sessions guarantees a cure. Treating depression may take time, and you may encounter relapses. You may even find that your therapist is ultimately not the right one for you. Don’t fret. The counsellor that is right for you is out there, and he or she can help.