Online Counseling for Depression - Does It Really Work?
I'm often asked about the effectiveness of online counseling for conditions like depression and anxiety. While it is completely normal to experience periodic feelings of depression or anxiety, when these last a long time or become so intense that life feels unmanageable, it may be time to talk with a professional, who has experience in treating these symptoms.
There are actually several different types of depression, and treatment efforts should ideally be tailored to the type of depression a person is experiencing. Depression is a common condition and usually highly treatable. It's estimated that the lifetime risk of having one or more depressive episodes for women is approximately 33%, and the risk for men is approximately 20%. Mental Health America estimates that approximately 21,000,000 adults each year struggle with depression. Many people do not seek treatment, though, due to feelings of shame, fear of being stigmatized or erroneously believing that talking with an online counselor or other mental health professional won't help or means that they are in some way "weak."
Common symptoms of depression include:
Sad or depressed mood
Low energy and/or motivation
Sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep
Difficulty concentrating, making decisions and/or remembering things
Feeling worthless or guilty
Loss of interest in usual activities
Lessened enjoyment of usual activities
Thoughts of suicide or intentional self-injury
Until recently, many experts believed that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance--specifically, the brain chemical (called "neurotransmitters") serotonin. However, a recent study strongly suggests otherwise. Antidepressant medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and others can still help, though, in regulating an individual's mood when symptoms of depression are present. One of the most effective treatments for depression has been around for many decades: cognitive-behavioral therapy or "CBT." Cognitive-behavioral therapy and similar therapies like Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy ("REBT") focus on helping a person to identify and challenge negative thought patterns, which cause one's depressed mood to be maintained. In various research studies, CBT has even demonstrated a greater degree of effectiveness than antidepressant medications for some people. However, many people obtain maximum benefit from both CBT or REBT and antidepressant medications.
As an online counselor I frequently help clients to identify and challenge the thoughts, that are keeping them feeling stuck in depression and to replace these thoughts with more rational, realistic thinking. I often hear clients tell me, "I've tried to tell myself positive things, but it doesn't change how I'm feeling." Let me be clear in saying that CBT and REBT have nothing to do with "thinking positive thoughts"; they have everything to do with thinking more realistic thoughts, however--a completely different matter. Many of my clients tell me within only two or three short months that they feel more empowered, more hopeful and more confident in their ability to cope with everyday life--to no longer give into the monster, that is depression. I would be honored to help you do the same--to live the life you deserve, rather than feeling like a slave to depression.
I offer online counseling to residents of Texas and Florida. Although I specialize in working with LGBT clients, I also regularly work in online therapy with those outside of the LGBT community. Contact me, and let's talk about how I can help you get back on track and living again.