5 Types of Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder | MyDepressionTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyDepressionTeam
Powered By

5 Types of Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder

Medically reviewed by Paul Ballas, D.O.
Written by Emily Wagner, M.S.
Posted on March 31, 2023

Psychotherapy (talk therapy) is one of the most common treatments for major depressive disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression or severe depression. It’s often used in a treatment plan in combination with medication. During talk therapy, you meet with a trained mental health professional — such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed therapist — to talk about your MDD and how it affects your life.

Depending on your case, your therapist may choose a specific type of psychotherapy to help you work through your past, learn new coping skills, and live the fullest life possible. Mental health professionals commonly use five types of psychotherapy to treat MDD. Each type focuses on different approaches and skill sets for living with depression.

In addition to different types of talk therapy, there are different formats:

  • Individual therapy — Sessions involve only you and a therapist.
  • Group therapy — Sessions take place in a group setting with at least two individuals seeking treatment and a therapist.
  • Family therapy — Aimed at building a support network, these sessions include family members and a therapist.
  • Couples therapy — In this type of therapy, a partner or spouse participates to learn how to better understand depression and how they can support their partner.

MyDepressionTeam members sometimes discuss their experiences with different types of talk therapy — or seek advice from others. One asked, “Has anyone here tried dialectical behavior therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy? I have tried every medication on the market and transcranial magnetic stimulation, with no results. Any helpful suggestions out there?”

In this article, we’ll discuss five types of therapy used to treat MDD. You can work closely with your medical team and therapist to determine which option is best for you.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of talk therapy used to treat MDD. CBT follows a set structure (unlike other forms of therapy) to help people with depression become more in touch with their emotions and thoughts. CBT is based on several core principles, with a focus on addressing inaccurate or negative thoughts that you have about yourself and your environment.

During CBT, your therapist will help you address these thoughts and replace them with new ways of thinking. This form of talk therapy is driven by conversations with your therapist, and it can bring up your past, traumas, and fears. It takes time to change your internal monologue and thoughts, so most people take part in between five and 20 therapy sessions.

CBT is recommended for helping people who have certain thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that contribute to MDD. While you can’t control every situation in life, you can control how you react to them. CBT gives you coping skills and helps you change your thinking to better deal with stressful or difficult situations that contribute to your depression.

MyDepressionTeam members have discussed their successes with CBT. One member shared, “CBT has done wonders for me. Lots of online resources as well as books from the library.”

“I just had one year of weekly CBT sessions with my clinical psychologist. I found it helped me immensely with dealing with my major depression,” shared another.

2. Interpersonal Therapy

Depression often affects others around you, which can put a strain on personal and social relationships. Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is talk therapy designed to help you improve your communication skills with your family, friends, and coworkers and address your MDD. Studies show that IPT is effective for treating depression that can be used alone or with antidepressant medication.

IPT focuses on identifying more immediate causes of your MDD and how they affect your relationships. This talk therapy can help address depression caused by recent changes in your life, such as losing a job, moving, or ending a relationship. By identifying what’s causing your MDD, your therapist can help you develop new skills for handling your emotions and interacting with those around you.

Because IPT is often started after a major life event, it’s usually a short-term treatment lasting between three to four months. If you’d like to continue another type of talk therapy afterward, your therapist can help you decide which one is best for your situation.

3. Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Closely related to CBT, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is talk therapy designed to help people who experience very intense emotions. Although it’s often used for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it’s also been shown to be an effective treatment for MDD.

There are four core principles that therapists teach during DBT:

  • Emotion regulation — Becoming more aware of your emotions and regulating them
  • Mindfulness — Being present and fully aware in moments rather than focusing too much on the past or future
  • Distress tolerance — Learning healthier ways to handle your emotions in stressful or difficult situations
  • Interpersonal effectiveness — Understanding your needs and how to get them met while setting healthy boundaries for yourself and others around you

During DBT, your therapist will help you find balance in accepting your life and behaviors while also providing you with the tools to make changes and address unhelpful behaviors. This type of therapy focuses on teaching you better ways to cope with intense or negative emotions that have led to major depressive episodes in the past.

Therapists offer DBT in individual and group settings. However, this is different from group therapy — the therapist teaches lessons based on new skills in a classroom setting rather than facilitating conversations between members.

DBT has helped many MyDepressionTeam members. “I finally completed my DBT group. I feel like I learned many new behaviors, I just need to remember when to use the skills to my advantage,” one member shared.

4. Problem-Solving Therapy

As its name suggests, problem-solving therapy helps you develop skills to identify and solve problems as they come up in life. No matter the size of your problem, it’s important to be able to manage stressful situations in life in healthy ways.

Your therapist will help you focus on problems in the present rather than in the past. They’ll also help you keep a positive attitude when coming up with solutions, since you’ll continue to face problems throughout your life. You may learn how to identify a problem, understand it, and then tackle it without a negative outlook that may contribute to MDD.

Problem-solving therapy teaches you to identify what triggers your major depression and gives you the confidence and skills to handle your problems without it feeling impossible. Studies show that this therapy can effectively help treat MDD in as few as six sessions.

5. Psychodynamic Therapy

For some people, the past can influence their emotions in the present. Psychodynamic therapy helps people work through their major depression caused by unresolved trauma or conflicts, usually from childhood. By addressing your past, you can better understand why you think in a certain way or feel particular emotions. You can take these new insights and apply them to your present life.

Psychodynamic therapy can also help improve your relationships with family and friends that may be affected by your unconscious thoughts and behaviors. Your therapist will help you recognize patterns that may be contributing to these thoughts and behaviors and give you the tools to change them.

Talk to Your Doctor About Therapy for MDD

Talk therapy is most effective when it’s used along with antidepressant medications, such as:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Atypical antidepressants

Your medical team will work together to help you find the right combination of medication and therapy to help you break through your depression. If your treatment isn’t as effective as you need it to be, there are several other treatment options available.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyDepressionTeam is the social network for people with depression and their loved ones. On MyDepressionTeam, more than 143,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with depression and bipolar disorder.

Have you participated in therapy to treat major depressive disorder? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on March 31, 2023
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

    We'd love to hear from you! Please share your name and email to post and read comments.

    You'll also get the latest articles directly to your inbox.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
    Paul Ballas, D.O. is an attending psychiatrist at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Emily Wagner, M.S. holds a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology. She is passionate about immunology, cancer biology, and molecular biology. Learn more about her here.

    Recent Articles

    Do you ever feel so tired that it’s hard to get out of bed? This could be a sign of fatigue, whic...

    Bipolar 1 Fatigue: 5 Ways To Relieve It

    Do you ever feel so tired that it’s hard to get out of bed? This could be a sign of fatigue, whic...
    As you age, your body, thoughts, and emotions continue changing over time. The same can also be s...

    Do Bipolar 1 Symptoms Get Worse With Age?

    As you age, your body, thoughts, and emotions continue changing over time. The same can also be s...
    To manage mood disorders like bipolar 1 disorder, doctors can prescribe a variety of medications....

    6 Treatments for Bipolar 1 Disorder

    To manage mood disorders like bipolar 1 disorder, doctors can prescribe a variety of medications....
    It’s not unusual to apply more than once before qualifying for Social Security Disability benefit...

    Is Schizophrenia a Disability? Qualifying for Benefits and More

    It’s not unusual to apply more than once before qualifying for Social Security Disability benefit...
    The prognosis of schizophrenia depends on how severe your symptoms are, whether you’re on treatme...

    Schizophrenia Prognosis and Life Expectancy

    The prognosis of schizophrenia depends on how severe your symptoms are, whether you’re on treatme...
    If you’re living with bipolar disorder, you’ve likely experienced mood swings between mania (elev...

    Bipolar Psychosis: 7 Things To Know

    If you’re living with bipolar disorder, you’ve likely experienced mood swings between mania (elev...
    MyDepressionTeam My depression Team

    Thank you for subscribing!

    Become a member to get even more:

    sign up for free

    close
    MyDepressionTeam
    Add to your home screen
    MyDepressionTeam Tap below and then 'Add to Home Screen'