Can a Therapist Diagnose Depression?

Written by: Janesse Leung

What is Depression?

depression-therapyIt’s natural to feel sad or “blue” sometimes. If your low mood lingers for days or weeks, you could be experiencing clinical depression. An episode of sadness or apathy, along with other symptoms, that lasts at least two consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities is considered depression. If you suspect you are depressed, you’re probably concerned about how and whether you can feel better. You may be asking what kind of doctor treats the disorder, or wondering whether a doctor or therapist will diagnose it.

You’re taking an important step by asking questions. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a failure to “think positive”.  It is a major public
health problem and a treatable medical condition. A proper diagnosis is an important first step. Other physical health conditions can cause feelings of sadness, lethargy, and lack of motivation, so you are correct to be concerned about ruling out other issues and confirming that

What Should I Do if I Think I am Depressed?

An appointment with your doctor can rule out other medical conditions that might cause symptoms such as disturbed sleep, reduced energy, and changes in appetite. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor you think you may be depressed. Depression and anxiety are common so general practitioners and family practice doctors are ready to assess and diagnose it. Your doctor may ask you questions about how things have been for you lately, or get you to complete a questionnaire.

Your doctor may direct you to see a psychiatrist, a medical doctor with additional training and experience with mental health. Either a medical doctor or a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, if you both decide that’s the best option.

A clinical psychologist or licensed therapist is also qualified to make a diagnosis. The strongest approach to treating depression is a combination of medication and therapy. You, your medical practitioner and your therapist can contribute to your plan for treatment. All of these health care professionals can then help you decide the best way to begin getting better.

Does Therapy Help With Depression?

Depression is a painful, but treatable, illness. Experts now say that with prompt treatment, depression is less likely to return later in life. Untreated depression can linger and get worse. Fear, isolation and loneliness are some of the effects of depression and, unfortunately, also make the illness worse.

With the help of qualified professional, you can work with thoughts and feelings that cause the pain and distress that contribute to depression. Supportive, kind professional help can break through the cycle of depression, providing relief and beginning the process toward recovery.

What Kind of Therapy Should I Try?

Common types of therapy you may encounter when looking for treatment:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): The cognitive aspect can assist you in developing more helpful thoughts and beliefs about life. The behavioral side helps you learn healthier ways to act.
  • Interpersonal therapy: focuses on improving your relationships and helping you express emotions in healthier ways.
  • Family therapy: can help you and your family with communication, conflict and solving problems better.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: helps you explore unconscious emotions and motivations that can affect thoughts and actions.
  • Art therapy: can involve using music, dance, drawing and other art forms to express emotion and promote healing.
  • Psycho-education: helps you understand mental health conditions and ways to recover.

Getting therapeutic support is more important than the kind of therapy you choose. One clinical study randomly assigned participants to one of three treatments: cognitive-behavioral therapy focusing on ways of thinking; short-term psychoanalytic therapy focused on dreams, memories and the unconscious; or a brief psychosocial intervention focusing on strategies like encouraging pleasurable activities and combating loneliness.

Researchers found that 70 percent of participants in each treatment group improved. Among those who benefited from treatment, their symptoms declined by 50 percent over the next year.

Can I Heal From Depression?

The experience of many depressed people and the experts that study depression suggest that it is a treatable illness. With treatment and support, you can move beyond the physical and mental effects of depression. Day by day, you may find yourself feeling more hopeful and gradually find more enjoyment in life, even if things feel difficult. Keep looking for treatment and be patient with yourself: your prospects for healing from depression are very good.