by Langston Hughes
Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
And my throat
Is deep with song,
You did not think
I suffer after
I’ve held my pain
Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
You do not hear
My inner cry:
Because my feet
Are gay with dancing,
You do not know
Image: Nik Shuliahin. Unsplash.
Can psychotherapy help those who experience the hellish afflictions of depressive illness? The answer to this question is that it is possible to treat some people through psychotherapy. Obviously, there is no universal panacea, no magic cure and this treatment is not for everyone.
However, there are several kinds of psychotherapy which have been shown through research to help depression. A GP or therapist will make an assessment to help the person decide which modality might suit them. Many have found different forms of psychotherapy helpful.
There is a combination of factors in relation to the origins and causes of clinical depression; it has both chemical and psychological origins. Therefore treatment often needs to address both of these, in terms of medical or psychiatric help and therapy. It is up to the individual to decide, along with professional advice, which treatment or treatment combination may be right for them.
Medication for depression certainly has its place and has been proved to be effective. Indeed, it can be life-saving. Obviously different drugs suit different people, and some work generally better than others.
However, there is still plenty of room for further research:
New treatments are badly needed, the experts say. Most of the drugs in the study are known as SSRIs, which are thought to work by increasing levels of a chemical messenger called serotonin in the brain, but nobody knows for certain. “We don’t have any very precise treatments for depression at this point in time,” said Geddes.
Dr Tim Cantopher, in his helpful book Depression:The Curse of the Strong, underlines the fact that depression does not happen to weak people. He refers to the increase of stress in our society, which he feels is the commonest cause of clinical depression:
This illness nearly always happens to one type of person. He or she is strong, reliable, diligent, with a strong conscience and a sense of responsibility, but is also sensitive, easily hurt by criticism and has a self-esteem which, while it may look robust on the outside, is in fact quite vulnerable and easily dented. This is the person to whom you would turn in times of need, and they would never let you down.
Keeping quiet about one’s depression can make it worse; sometimes people share with friends or family and that may be helpful. At other times, being able to talk with a professional therapist may be the best way though one’s problems.
The therapist will help look for meaning, for what might lie, psychologically speaking, at the heart of the depression and emotional suffering. Insights may be gained into past experiences that may have been damaging, into negative ways of thinking and destructive behaviour patterns, all repeated in the present.
Long repressed thoughts, feelings and significant dreams can come into consciousness in the accepting and non-judgemental atmosphere of the therapy room.
Sometimes, a depressed person feels so isolated, so alone, in a very dark place. As a therapist, it seems often like a privilege to have someone try to communicate this pain of loneliness, of feeling locked inside, trapped in a dark hole, vessel. or tunnel.
Rather than attempt to ‘pull out’ the person, I wonder if there is any way I can be in there with her, even for a second? Of course I cannot know exactly what it feels like for her, but I have been in my own ‘dark spaces’ , so I know them inside myself.
Having someone even express the wish to be in that terrible place with her, may make the depressed person feel less afraid, less alone. Of course, this has to be handled sensitively and, crucially, with an awareness of timing.
Issues like unresolved anger, grief, disillusionment, may be explored and worked through in a way that can provide understanding into the roots of the problems. Then perhaps new ways of managing such feelings may be discovered.
Gradually, such understanding may lead to re-evaluation and change, so that old patterns can be broken and new ways of being discovered.
People become trapped in their past, which is very depressing. Coming to terms with long-held feelings and disappointments can be a releasing experience, for these can inhibit personal growth and development. Adjusting to newly-found truths about oneself and one’s past may be difficult, but it often leads to increased energy for life and the wish to move on more hopefully and constructively.
Do you have thoughts about this post? Has psychotherapy helped you with depression? Feel free to share whatever you can in the comments.