Therapy for Depression

1 in 16 people in Australia are affected by depression every year. The good news is that depression can be managed with the right resources and support. 

Low mood and sadness are normal human emotions – we all feel sad or low at times. Depression is diagnosed when these feelings last for long periods, become more severe, and affect our quality of life. When a person is experiencing depression, they may struggle to live the life they want.  

Depression often makes us feel hopeless and helpless and can lead to suicidal thoughts. When people are depressed they may have thoughts of hurting themselves or of ending their life. If you are having such thoughts please urgently contact Lifeline (13 11 14), your GP, another health professional, or your local mental health team (1800 011 511). If you require immediate assistance, dial 000. 

Types of Depression

Major Depression

Sometimes called major depressive disorder, clinical depression, unipolar depression or simply ‘depression’. It involves low mood and/or loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities, as well as other symptoms The symptoms are experienced most days and last for at least two weeks.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder used to be known as ‘manic depression’ because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood in between.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

This has symptoms similar to those of major depression but are less severe but the symptoms last longer. A person has to have this milder depression for more than two years to be diagnosed with this disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

This mood disorder has a seasonal pattern. The cause of the disorder is unclear, but it’s thought to be related to the variation in light exposure in different seasons. It’s characterised by mood disturbances (either periods of depression or mania) that begin and end in a particular season. Depression which starts in winter and subsides when the season ends is the most common. It’s usually diagnosed after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a childhood condition that is characterised by severe anger, irritability, and frequent temper outbursts. While temper tantrums tend to be quite common in kids, DMDD is more than just normal childhood moodiness. The angry outbursts that kids experience with DMDD are extreme, intense, and can lead to significant disruption in many areas of a child’s life.

Substance-induced Depressive Disorder

Substance or Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder is diagnosed when a substance (alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescribed medication) causes depressive symptoms while an individual is using the substance or during a withdrawal syndrome associated with the substance. These symptoms can cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a health problem that is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but is more serious. PMDD causes causes extreme mood shifts in the week or two before your period that can disrupt daily life and damage relationships.


Therapy for Depression

Psychological treatment for depression will depend on what is causing the symptoms of depression. Treatment may include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), EMDR, IFS, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) or Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT). Each of these will help you learn more about your symptoms, learn skills for managing these symptoms, and gradually resume usual activities. For more information about the types of therapies, visit our All About Therapy page.

Getting effective treatment for depression often also reduces symptoms of other psychological disorders, such as anxiety disorders. 

People who have symptoms of sadness and low mood but do not have depression, can also benefit from learning the skills taught in psychological treatment programs.

It isn’t unusual for people to try treatment several times, or have reminder-sessions once treatment is over to help them stay well. People often find that they are more resilient following treatment and can bounce back more quickly, even if their symptoms return.

7 Common CBT Techniques for Depression

1. Cognitive Restructuring

In challenging your thought patterns, tone, and self-talk, you learn about potential cognitive distortions and unhealthy thought patterns that could be increasing depressive emotions or suicidal thoughts. Cognitive restructuring helps form healthier patterns, reduce cognitive errors, and practice ways to rationalise distortions.

2. Activity Scheduling

This involves rewarding yourself for scheduling low-level activities that encourage positive regard and self-care. By scheduling these activities and rewards, you learn to motivate yourself to complete necessary tasks even when you are feeling low. It also increases the chances of continuing to complete these tasks after you end your formal therapy sessions.

3. Thought Journalling

By journaling about your emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, you create a space to process and identify any potential triggers, as well as how your thoughts influenced your behaviour. This can increase self-awareness and help you learn coping techniques to use in the future.

4. ABC Analysis

This skill is solely focused on breaking down the behaviours that are related to depression, like snapping at people or sleeping all day. The ABC model uses the following structure:

  1. The “Activating” event
  2. Your “Beliefs” about that event
  3. The “Consequences” of the event, including your feelings and behaviours surrounding the event

In analysing your triggers and consequences, you can explore the “consequential” behaviours and look to find common causes in your depressive triggers.

5. Fact Checking

This technique encourages you to review your thoughts and understand that, while you may be stuck in a depressive or harmful thought pattern, these thoughts are not facts but opinions based on your emotions (e.g., “I am a failure”). Fact-checking can also help you identify what behaviours you engage in due to your opinions or emotions instead of the actual facts.

6. Successive Approximation or "Breaking it Down"

Breaking down large tasks into smaller goals will help you feel less overwhelmed. By practicing successive approximation, you will be more likely to complete your goals and be better able to cope with large tasks in the future, even during times when your depression is heightened.

7. Mindful Meditation

By engaging in meditation for depression, you will learn to reduce focus on negative thoughts and increase your ability to remain in the present. Meditation can help you recognise and learn to accept your negative thought patterns and detach from them instead of letting them take over.

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