I have been doing a series of radio broadcasts on 90.9 KCBI through Criswell College’s “For Christ and Culture” spot on the topic of depression.

This week I further discussed some of the treatments that we use to help people who are depressed. As I have said often, there is a difficult tension between how much we should “let go and let God” and/or “work out our own salvation…” (I use that verse figuratively of course :)) I have firmly stated that I am unwilling to go to one extreme or another on the matter, even though it would be easier to do so. With each individual, I must wrestle with all aspects of their humanity: biologically, psychologically, and spiritually. With that understanding, what are the most common psychological and biological treatments offered to help those suffering from depression?

1.       Psychotherapy (Talk therapy):

  1. Solution-focused therapy (SFT) – many individuals come to counseling with a specific problem that they would like professional help to address. It may be a specific conflict with a spouse, child, friend or coworker. It may be an educational or occupational decision that must be made. Whatever the specific problem, the therapist works with the client to generate solutions, test the solutions, and then see what worked and what did not. This can be just as valuable an experience as meeting with a lawyer to get legal counseling, a CPA to get financial counseling, or a pastor to get spiritual counseling. The appointments are usually limited to between 5 to 10 sessions.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – the practice of this form of talk therapy is very much in line with Christian principles. In fact, many Christian counselors use the practical methods of this therapy in their counseling office, whether they realize it or not. Formal CBT is very structured and involves active engagement of both the therapist and client in session as well as ongoing homework for the client between sessions. Because of its structured and formalized nature, it is easier to study scientifically than other forms of therapy, and by all reports, it is an effective means of treating depression. In this therapy, the counselor works with the client not just on solutions to specific problems (although this can certainly be incorporated) but more on analyzing the clients thoughts, emotions, and behaviors during an array of problematic situations. The goal is to change faulty patterns of thinking that negatively impact the client’s life.
  3. Insight-oriented or Psychodynamic Therapy – In this form of therapy, clients engage in a kind of “thought-behind-the-thought” analysis. It goes beyond simply challenging and changing faulty beliefs to deepening the client’s understanding of where and how they developed these thoughts. It addresses issues of psychological defensiveness (ways we protect ourselves from negative urges or emotions), personality styles, and past relationships and experiences that have solidified our view of ourselves and our world. This form of therapy can be very time intensive and requires a certain level of psychological-mindedness on the part of the client, but can still be extremely helpful to someone dealing with chronic depression.
  4. I will touch on medical treatment modalities in Part II.

My point in describing these various treatments is to give hope to individuals who are suffering. Science has come a long way in helping people who suffer from depression. My caveat, however, is this: suffering is a part of life. We will never find the magic pill to take away all pain and suffering. We seek to enjoy this life as much as possible while realizing that this was not the real life we were made for. Sometimes it feels like we are playing an endless game of “Whac-a-Mole.” Having just beaten down one problem, others surface for us to beat down. It is helpful in times like these to remember that we are called to praise God for the suffering He relieves (through whatever means including medical treatments) and trust Him with the suffering we continue to endure.

Question: What about you? What is your view on medical, psychological and spiritual treatments for depression?

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