Depression is a mental health condition that affected 8.4% of the adult U.S. population in 2020 (approximately 21 million people) and 17% of 12 to 17-year-olds (around 4.1 million adolescents). A major depressive episode is characterized as a period of at least two weeks where somebody has experienced low mood, problems with sleep, eating, energy, and self-worth, and, in extreme circumstances, thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
Counseling for depression is a therapy that helps patients identify, address and manage negative thought patterns that impact behaviors during their depression. Acceptance and exploration of feelings are at the root of depression counseling, a proven effective treatment method for depressive episodes.
This article explores how to find a counselor to suit your needs, what kinds of therapy are open to you, when you should look into depression counseling, and what to expect when your treatment begins.
How to Find a Counselor that Fits Your Needs
Finding the right counselor to fit your requirements depends on the type of counseling you’re looking for, and there are several things to consider when making your choice.
Things to Consider
If you’re using your medical insurance to pay for counseling, understand how many sessions your plan covers per year, and look at your insurer’s provider network of counselors. If you’re planning to pay privately, Healthline’s FindCare tool is an excellent resource for finding mental health professionals nearby or online.
Meanwhile, several therapists specialize in treating particular mental health and depressive conditions. For example, some focus on helping overcome addiction, while others focus on dealing with anxiety and depressive episodes. Some focus on treating trauma and PTSD, and others on other causes of depression, such as eating disorders. You can find a complete set of resources on where to find specialized treatment providers in your area at the end of this article.
Before beginning a course of talking treatment with a counselor, discuss your goals with them. Talking about your goals will help you understand whether they are the right person for you. Ask them about their experience, particularly in the area of expertise you’re looking for help in, and how to pay them.
If you don’t feel entirely at ease or like they will help you reach your goals, don’t be shy about looking for a different provider. Your counselor will want you to feel at ease and comfortable with being completely open with them and will understand if you think they aren’t for you.
In-Person and Online Counseling Options
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a boom in online counseling as therapists took to virtual methods of providing talking therapy for clients during lockdowns. In the post-lockdown arena, online counseling continues to grow in popularity as a lower-cost alternative to in-person treatment that is increasing accessibility for patients.
Providers like Talkspace and BetterHelp offer online access to thousands of counselors that can provide you with tailored counseling at a fraction of the price of in-person therapy. The range of services online counselors provides is the same as those offered by in-person therapists. These include:
- Interpersonal therapy – Helps you understand relationships and their impact on you.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – Helps you manage depression and anxiety by challenging thought processes and their attached behaviors.
- Psychotherapy – Helps you explore the root cause of your depression and regain confidence.
While online therapy is an excellent option for people on limited incomes or who lead busy lives, many prefer the face-to-face connection and rapport they can build in person with their therapist.
When Should You Start Attending Counseling?
There is no definitive answer to the question, “When should you begin counseling?” The right approach depends on each individual. Indeed, biting the bullet and taking that first step to reach out to a counselor can often feel insurmountable.
However, if you’re experiencing any of the following signs or symptoms, it may be beneficial for you to explore a course of counseling:
- You’ve experienced a traumatic life event or are struggling to process trauma.
- You’ve noticed behavioral changes, such as having a shorter temper.
- You’ve noticed changes in your mood which is impacting your relationships.
- You don’t feel like you’re functioning at 100% or anywhere near it.
- You feel overwhelmed.
- You can feel the pressure building and need someone non-judgemental to talk to.
- You want to break repeating patterns in your life.
Once you’ve taken that first step and found a counselor that understands your problems and can help you achieve your goals, the burden will begin to lift.
What to Expect from Depression Counseling
A depression counselor is there to help you explore your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to help you better understand yourself, others, and how you interact with those around you. They will use a series of open questions to encourage you to delve deep and find the answers you’re looking for.
It is essential to recognize that counseling often takes time, patience, dedication, and perseverance before you begin to make a breakthrough. In addition, it’s important to understand that your counselor will not offer advice or their opinion. They will help you develop creative problem-solving techniques to better understand your feelings and behaviors and find coping mechanisms that work for you.
Your counselor will create a safe, non-judgmental environment that encourages you to be open and honest with them. They will not criticize you for anything you divulge during a session, which typically lasts for 50 minutes. However, your therapist will likely ask you some searching and challenging questions to help you find context for your feelings and behaviors.