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16 min read

Types of Therapy for Depression

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: Feb 11, 2024

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

Table of contents

Feeling lost in the fog of depression can leave you overwhelmed and unsure where to turn for help. Luckily, there are types of therapy for depression that can guide you during this challenging time.

Finding the right type of depression therapy can seem daunting, but understanding the various types available is the first step to improving your mental health. This guide highlights the diverse therapy options available in-person and online, helping you make an informed choice. Beyond exploring the types of therapy, this blog will also guide you through finding the right therapist, what to expect in depression therapy sessions, and additional strategies to complement your journey to overcoming depression. 

When looking for depression therapy, Klarity is ready to help. You can pick a licensed provider on Klarity who specializes in depression therapy and is available for treatment when you need it. Find a provider on Klarity today and learn what type of therapy for depression treatment is right for your situation. 

The impact of depression on daily life

Characterized by a deep sense of despair, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in life, depression can seep into all aspects of life. Depression can strain relationships, as individuals may withdraw from social interactions, struggle to communicate their feelings or react irritably. Professional life can suffer, too, as decreased productivity, absenteeism, and a lack of motivation are common in the workplace among those battling depression.

Depression symptoms often include a constant feeling of fatigue and a significant decrease in energy, making even the simplest tasks or personal hobbies that were once sources of joy feel insurmountable or have lost their appeal. There’s a pervasive sense of worthlessness or guilt, often accompanied by an inability to concentrate, indecisiveness, and a noticeable change in appetite and sleep patterns. In more severe forms, depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide, underscoring its seriousness and the imperative need for effective intervention and mental health treatment.

7 Different types of depression therapy

When looking into the different types of therapy for depression treatment, you’ll find that each is tailored to meet an individual’s different experiences with depression. From the structured and goal-oriented paths of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to the introspective and past-focused methods of Psychodynamic Therapy, the range is extensive and profound.

The different types of depression therapy can lead to long-term mental resilience and personal growth. For example, behavioral therapy focuses on practical skill-building, while Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) creates awareness of thoughts and actions.) This exploration into various therapies allows for a deeper understanding of what type of therapy will work best for your situation.

1. Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is grounded in the understanding that thoughts significantly influence feelings and behaviors. It operates on the principle that negative and distorted thinking patterns contribute to and exacerbate depression symptoms. Therefore, the primary aim of cognitive therapy is to identify these harmful thought patterns and challenge them.

In practice, this type of depression therapy involves working closely with a therapist to recognize thoughts that are irrational, overly critical, or pessimistic. Patients are taught to observe their thought processes, identify patterns that lead to depressive symptoms, and then reframe these thoughts in a more realistic and positive manner. This process is not about denying difficulties or unpleasant experiences but rather changing the way one interprets and reacts to them.

By developing skills to shift negative thought patterns, individuals can experience a decrease in depressive symptoms and an increase in positive emotions and behaviors. Over time, this leads to a more optimistic outlook on life, better problem-solving abilities, and an enhanced sense of well-being, making cognitive therapy a vital tool in depression treatment. 

2. Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is a practical approach to treating depression, focusing on modifying specific behaviors that contribute to the condition. The central tenet of this therapy is that behaviors are learned and, therefore, can be changed. It emphasizes the role of conditioning in developing both healthy and unhealthy behaviors, thereby addressing the behavioral aspects of depression.

In sessions, therapists work with individuals to identify negative or self-destructive behavior patterns that deepen or perpetuate depressive symptoms. This might include overcoming tendencies like social withdrawal or lack of physical activity. Techniques such as activity scheduling are employed, encouraging individuals to engage in positive and enjoyable activities, which can disrupt the cycle of depression.

In addition to modifying behaviors, this therapy focuses on developing practical coping strategies. Patients are taught skills like effective problem-solving and relaxation techniques to manage stress. By setting achievable goals and gradually working toward them, patients replace negative habits with positive ones. This approach can improve an individual’s mood and empower them with a greater sense of control over their mental health.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a depression treatment approach that synergizes the principles of cognitive and behavioral therapies. It operates on the understanding that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected; and that changing negative thought patterns and behaviors can lead to improvements in one’s emotional state. While cognitive therapy focuses on emotions, CBT goes one step further and addresses modifying behaviors that reinforce depression.

In CBT, depression therapists work with individuals to identify specific negative thoughts and behavior patterns that contribute to their depressive disorder. This process involves a deep exploration of one’s thought processes and the subsequent emotional and behavioral responses. The therapy then guides individuals in developing strategies to challenge and alter these thoughts and behaviors, replacing them with more realistic, positive ones to reduce the symptoms of depression and improve overall well-being.

4. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an innovative form of depression therapy that blends traditional cognitive therapy techniques with mindfulness practices, such as meditation and mindful breathing. The core objective of MBCT is to cultivate an awareness of the present moment, encouraging individuals to observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment. 

This approach helps break the cycle of recurrent depression by teaching individuals to disengage from habitual, often automatic negative thought patterns that can trigger a depressive episode. MBCT’s effectiveness lies in its emphasis on mindfulness as a tool for mental wellness. Practicing mindfulness helps individuals learn to respond to stressful situations with a sense of clarity and calmness rather than reacting impulsively. This heightened awareness of the present moment enables individuals to recognize early signs of depression and employ cognitive strategies to prevent a full relapse. 

In essence, MBCT equips individuals with skills to maintain long-term mental health, promoting a sustained recovery from depression.

5. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy, initially created to treat borderline personality disorder, has proven effective in managing depression, particularly where emotion regulation is a significant challenge. DBT operates on the concept of dialectics, the integration of opposites, aiming to help patients find a balance between acceptance and change. It teaches individuals to acknowledge their feelings and behaviors without judgment while simultaneously working on changing harmful patterns.

A key component of DBT is its focus on skill-building in areas such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills empower individuals to handle emotional fluctuations more effectively, reduce impulsivity, and improve relationships, which are often strained by the symptoms of depression. Through individual therapy and group skills training, DBT provides a structured approach to equip individuals with the tools necessary to navigate complex emotional landscapes, ultimately leading to a more stable and satisfying life.

6. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

Interpersonal therapy is a focused and time-limited approach that specifically addresses the connection between personal relationships and depression. IPT helps individuals understand and work through problematic relationship dynamics, communication issues, and unresolved grief or conflicts that may be at the heart of their depressive symptoms.

During IPT sessions, therapists guide patients in identifying the relationship patterns that exacerbate their depression and work on strategies to improve these interactions. This could involve enhancing communication skills, building social support networks, or working through complicated feelings related to loss and change. 

The goal of IPT is to alleviate symptoms of depression and improve the quality of interpersonal relationships, which in turn can lead to sustained mental health improvements.

7. Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic Therapy explores how past experiences and unresolved internal conflicts shape current behaviors and emotional states, including depression. It operates on the premise that unconscious processes developed in early life continue to influence present-day feelings and relationships. This therapeutic approach helps individuals uncover and understand these hidden patterns, bringing them to conscious awareness for healing and resolution.

In psychodynamic therapy, therapists guide individuals through an introspective journey, exploring their emotional history, significant life events, and recurring patterns in relationships. The process often involves examining dreams, fantasies, and the therapist-patient relationship itself as a window into the patient’s inner world. By understanding the root causes of their current struggles, individuals can begin to work through these issues, leading to profound and lasting changes.

How to find the right therapist for depression

Finding the right therapist for depression requires thoughtful consideration and personal reflection. It’s essential to seek a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression and resonates with your personal needs and communication style. 

This compatibility is key, as a strong therapeutic alliance significantly influences the effectiveness of the depression treatment. When searching for a therapist, consider their qualifications, treatment approaches, and experience with similar cases. It’s also beneficial to read reviews or seek recommendations from trusted sources. 

Most importantly, trust your instincts during initial consultations; the right depression therapist should make you feel heard, respected, and hopeful about your journey to recovery. 

What to expect during a therapy session

During a depression therapy session, you can expect a supportive and non-judgmental environment where you can freely express and explore your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. These sessions provide an opportunity to discuss the underlying causes of your depression, offering insights into your emotional patterns and triggers.

Your therapist will guide you through this process, helping you to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and your condition, and will work with you to develop strategies to manage and cope with your symptoms. Each therapy session is tailored to your individual needs and may vary in structure and focus. Techniques and exercises used can range from talking and reflection to more active strategies like role-playing or homework assignments.

How long does therapy take to treat depression?

The length of time required for therapy to effectively treat depression varies widely and is deeply personal. Factors such as the severity and duration of depressive symptoms, the specific type of therapy being used, and the individual’s response to treatment all play crucial roles in determining the timeline. 

Additionally, personal life circumstances, including the presence of support systems, concurrent life stressors, and individual resilience, can also impact the duration of therapy needed. For some, noticeable improvements may occur within a few weeks or months, while for others, the journey might be longer, potentially spanning several months to years. 

Combining therapy with medication

Combining therapy with medication often results in a more effective approach to depression treatment. While therapy addresses the psychological aspects of depression, such as negative thought patterns and coping strategies, medication can provide biochemical support to alleviate symptoms. 

This dual approach can be particularly beneficial for those with moderate to severe depression, where either therapy or medication alone may not be sufficient. The decision to combine these treatments should be made collaboratively with a mental health professional, taking into account individual symptoms, medical history, and personal preferences.

Common depression medications

Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medications for depression, designed to help balance the brain’s chemicals that affect mood and emotions. 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Sertraline (Zoloft), are frequently used due to their lower side-effect profile compared to older antidepressants. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Venlafaxine (Effexor) and Duloxetine (Cymbalta) are another class of antidepressant medication that can be effective. 

For those who may not respond to SSRIs and SNRIs, other options include atypical antidepressants like Bupropion (Wellbutrin) or Trazodone. It’s important to have open and ongoing discussions with a healthcare provider about the effectiveness and any side effects of the medication, as finding the right medication and dosage can be a process of trial and adjustment.

Techniques and coping strategies for depression

Effective management of depression often involves a range of techniques and coping strategies that can be practiced both within and outside of therapy sessions. Therapists typically introduce various tools that individuals can use to alleviate their symptoms and improve their overall mental health. 

These techniques are designed to help manage the day-to-day challenges of depression, providing practical skills to reduce negative thoughts, regulate emotions, and promote positive behaviors. It’s important to remember that these strategies may vary in effectiveness from person to person, and it might take some experimentation to find what works best for each individual.

Here are some common techniques and coping strategies for depression:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that focus on being present in the moment and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Journaling: Writing down thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly and identify patterns or triggers.
  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity can boost mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain, like endorphins.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Methods such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Healthy Eating Habits: Maintaining a balanced diet to support overall health, including mental well-being.
  • Adequate Sleep: Establishing a regular sleep schedule to improve both mood and energy levels.
  • Social Support: Engaging with friends, family, or support groups to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Setting Realistic Goals: Creating achievable objectives to provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
  • Cognitive Restructuring: Challenging and changing negative thought patterns into more positive and realistic ones.
  • Time Management Techniques: Structuring time to balance activities and reduce overwhelm.
  • Engaging in Hobbies and Interests: Participating in enjoyable activities to increase positive emotions and decrease depressive symptoms.

Barriers to accessing therapy

Accessing therapy for depression often comes with its own set of challenges, with cost, stigma, and lack of awareness being primary barriers for many individuals. The cost of therapy can be prohibitive, especially for those without insurance or with plans that offer limited mental health coverage. The societal and self-imposed stigma surrounding therapy can also deter individuals from seeking help, perpetuating a cycle of silence and untreated depression.

Additionally, a general lack of awareness about mental health resources and the benefits of talk therapy can keep people from pursuing this vital support. However, the rise of teletherapy platforms is revolutionizing access to mental health care. These platforms are making mental health services more accessible, helping to reduce the stigma, and increasing awareness about mental health.

Find a provider on Klarity for personalized depression therapy

The licensed providers on Klarity recognize each individual’s battle with depression is different and offer personalized depression therapy solutions to meet these varied needs. You can choose your own skilled and compassionate therapist on Klarity, who specializes in treating depression with therapy. This user-friendly platform simplifies the process of connecting with a therapist on Klarity, ensuring that starting your path to healing is as stress-free as possible.

Find a provider on Klarity today for personalized treatment and to learn what type of therapy for depression is right for you.

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

If you’re having a mental health crisis or experiencing a psychiatric emergency, it’s crucial to seek immediate help from a mental healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. You can also call your local emergency services, visit your nearest emergency room, or contact a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) in the U.S.


“6 Types of Therapy for Depression.” Nancy Schimelpfening. Verywell Mind.

“Therapy for Depression: 7 Effective Types.” Dr. Karmen Smith, LCSW, DD. Talkspace.

“Depression Treatments for Adults.” American Psychological Association.

“What Are the Types of Therapy for Depression?” Traci Pedersen. Healthline.

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