There are times in all of our lives when it feels like our soul has become so worn down we’ve lost sight of ourselves. Our energy has become so depleted, it feels difficult to recognize our value. These feelings are not about being broken, they’re about being human. Immobility, frustration, grief, and a lack of motivation, along with an abiding sense of sadness, may be signs of depression.
It is normal to feel sad for a period of time—after a loss, termination, divorce or some other ending, for example. Therapy for depression is designed to assess and intervene when normal sadness becomes a diagnosable condition.
In depression counseling at Kaizen Center for Mental Health (KCMH), our primary view of depression is influenced by radical behaviorism—a philosophical root of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). In this perspective, depression is viewed as a process, not an event. Depression is conceptualized primarily as somethingwe do (a set of private and public behaviors) and not primarily as somethingwe have (i.e. bad luck, bad genes, a cruel or absent God).
Depression therapy in safe, healing environments
Depression counseling aims to create a safe, honest relationship with corrective experiences inviting the new learning of skills over time and across context. In ACT consistent counseling, these skills are called psychological flexibility (skills): mindfulness, acceptance, and other values consistent patterns. This learning process helps us better cope with the distress that comes with depression and interrupt the behaviors that support depression to live more fully.
In addition to this stance on depression, we at KCMH recognize depression’s complexity which invites other scopes of practice in treating depression like a physician, nutritionist, or psychiatrist – among others. This team approach to depression care looks at depression through other lenses and includes screening for other health conditions whose symptoms may overlap or result from side effects with medication. There is a growing range of what science suggests are important variables to consider in competent, holistic depression care. This includes exercise, connection, meaning, sunlight, diet, proper diagnosis and medication – as well as newer findings like the brain-gut microbiome – to name a few.
Implementing a depression treatment plan that is unique to your needs and measure change
Behavior is both internal (thinking, feeling) as well as external (doing). Depression counseling should be able to measure how a treatment plan is progressing and impacting a person’s values-consistent behavior and quality of life over time. Especially important is tracking perceived and actual quality of life changes with a simple behavior change journal as the client is connected with as many layers of assessment/intervention as is needed.
Counseling’s effectiveness includes learning how to change the function of depression’s feelings and narratives. In addition to ACT – there are lots of other science based skills and approaches employed at KCMH by our team. For example, any time your mind reminds you of a reason to not feel hopeful we can que ourselves to practice DBT’s “opposite action” skill (a.k.a behavioral activation). This might include texting or calling a loved one, or taking a bath while feeling hopeless. Paradoxically, depression can be used as feedback/guidance to help satisfy our yearning for a higher quality of life. Without skillfulness depression can also be a noise that is easy to feel lost while struggling with.
Said more simply, our clinical team does not view depression solely as just a “disorder” needing to somehow be completely removed from our life. Sometimes the feelings of depression like sadness are a natural and unavoidable experience that may be wise to be felt rather than attempted to be exterminated from our life.
Feelings of depression may linger long after the new behavior is in place
Take exercise, for example—we may continue to feel depressed as we exercise for a period of time. This distressing feeling may linger until another life domain—such as sleep, screening for other physical health issues, trauma, lack of sunlight or connection—or a combination of several domains improves and alleviates the intensity of the distress.
Said another way—depression responds as multiple life domains improve over time. Depression can be brutal and feel nearly hopeless. That feeling will not last forever. With willingness, help and openness to feedback, we can spend our energy and engage life more wisely.
Once new coping skills and other values-consistent behaviors are engaged with meaningfully, the feeling of depression may shift dramatically. If one waits to live life or measures one’s success based solely upon if depressive feelings are or are not present, one will be sorely disappointed or devastated.
Instead, we are invited to measure our life success based upon the quality of our living and being (kindness, loving, engaged) in chosen and valued domains (parent, spouse, friend). This paradoxical nature of treating depression and it’s consistent companion (anxiety) can feel bewildering, demoralizing, and even hopeless without help and learning.
Treating depression requires courage and help
Facing feelings of depression is not only difficult, but can be extremely challenging to do alone. Sometimes it may seem easier to give up and avoid the heaviness you are feeling than to face another day. This is where the experienced therapists at Kaizen Center for Mental Health can be a useful support in pivoting out of depression’s trap.
At Kaizen Center for Mental Health you’ll find safe, comfortable, and welcoming spaces to express yourself and face your unique challenges, hurts and obstacles. The therapist you choose will work as your partner to develop a depression treatment plan that allows for healing from the effects of depression and thriving in life.
Depression experts are here to help you
There are many variables to depression that may interrelate to shape a person in their environment. Understanding the variables that influence a person’s experience of depression can be thought of as layers of sediment surrounding a fossil. Taking time to explore how different “layers” like: family, health, sex, gender, identity, career, loss, discrimination, abuse, trauma, media, resources, ability, race, culture, religion, government policy, are all variables that interrelate to shape society and individual lives over time.
Understanding how this influence is unique to each of us may be important with professional help and may provide new and needed insight for how to wisely respond to depression’s challenge in our lives. Counseling can help us learn how these layers interrelate and contribute to needless suffering during different seasons. This insight may invite opportunities and willingness for new learning, boundaries, skills and ultimately healing.
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Don’t let depression control your life any longer. The cycle of bouncing back and forth between beating yourself up and trying to get unstuck can end. You can find support and resources to help you embrace vulnerability and live more fully.