Medication is viewed by many as the treatment of choice for depression. This is evident in the large numbers of people who are prescribed antidepressant medications by their family doctors or psychiatrists. Taking medication to treat depression is facilitated by many people visiting their family doctor as the first source of help when they are depressed along with omnipresent advertisements for antidepressant medication in various media.
Although many people have benefitted from the use of medication for depression, there are several downsides to it: (1) Antidepressant medications do not work for certain people; (2) When they do work, people often need to try several medications and different dosages of them to find the proper medication and dosage; (3) Negative side-effects are common; (4) The cost can be prohibitive for certain people; (5) People who rely on medications are more prone to having their depressive symptoms return when they stop taking them; (6) Taking medication for depression reinforces the view that the person can do little for their issue other than manage the symptoms with drugs.
Fortunately, there are many natural treatments for depression which do not rely on medication. Although the benefits of natural treatments are less publicized than are those of taking medication, these benefits are well-established by research. Using natural treatments for depression addresses the disadvantages of taking medication mentioned above including helping a person move toward greater self-efficacy in relation to the issue. That is, natural treatments shift a person from viewing their depression as a disease with symptoms they can only manage by taking medication toward viewing their depression as a disorder which they can overcome on a lasting basis by addressing core causal factors through the use of skills and strategies.
In the following sections, I will discuss some of the key natural treatments for depression from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which I use with my clients in depression counselling in my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist.
Natural treatment for depression through behavioural activation
Research indicates that behavioural activation is a reliable natural treatment for depression. This CBT strategy involves helping the client to ‘activate’ behaviours that will have a positive effect on their mood. It is based on the knowledge that people who are depressed are typically lacking in such behaviours. There are two types of behaviours to target in behavioural activation–pleasurable activities which bring enjoyment to the person and mastery activities which involve a person accomplishing something or using their skills and talents in activities to boost their self-esteem.
Examples of pleasurable activities include listening to music and having coffee with a friend. Examples of mastery activities include exercise and participating in a sport, hobby or interest which the person finds stimulating and fun. Regularly scheduling pleasure and mastery activities is one of the best natural treatments for depression as well as an effective way to stave off future depressive episodes.
Natural treatment for depression through cognitive restructuring
Another natural treatment for depression which has research support is cognitive restructuring. This CBT strategy targets the negative thinking style which characterizes depression consisting of negative thoughts about oneself, one’s present life and one’s future. Cognitive restructuring skills like thought records help a person to identify these negative thinking patterns and change them to more balanced and accurate ways of viewing oneself, one’s world and one’s future.
A psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioural therapy can help you use these natural treatments for depression. Practicing the skills and strategies as part of these treatments will help you target the key cognitive and behavioural factors causing your depression so that you can succeed in overcoming this issue rather than just managing its symptoms.
May you use psychology to address the root causes of your depression,