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Faith and Family Dealing with depression: What can a counselor do?comment (0)

November 14, 2013

By Carrie Brown McWhorter


Research cited by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that delayed treatment for depression can lead to greater impairment in the future, so it is important for an individual experiencing symptoms of depression to be evaluated and treated early. 

If the person is unable or unwilling to take action, friends and relatives can help the depressed individual identify a qualified professional, make an appointment and/or travel to appointments. Many health care plans offer services to identify mental health experts in a geographic area, as does the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, according to WebMD. Pastors and physicians may be good sources of information as well. Credentials are important in the mental health field, so look for a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers, psychiatric nurse or counselor.

Since each individual is different, the plan of treatment will depend on the needs of the patient, which is important, according to Ian Jones, professor of psychology and counseling and Baptist community ministries’ chair of pastoral counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. 


“There is the danger of using a structured approach to try to help everyone in the same way, but depending on where a person is, a different engagement is necessary,” Jones said.

Initially a therapist will evaluate the patient and determine a course of treatment. Once the evaluation is complete, a therapist might take several approaches, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of talk therapy that helps people with depression restructure negative thought patterns and evaluate interactions with the environment and other people in a positive and realistic way.
  • Interpersonal therapy, another type of talk therapy that helps people understand and work through troubled relationships that may cause depression or make it worse.
  • Medication therapy, the use of antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications which regulate chemicals in the brain that play a role in depression. Medication therapy combined with talk therapy can be very effective in treating major depression and reducing the chances of relapse. 
  • Journaling, which challenges the patient to track mood changes, symptoms, sleep, exercise, diet and other daily activities that might reveal patterns that need to be changed or addressed in counseling sessions.             
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