Depending on how severe your condition is and what your circumstances are, treatments that do not involve medication may be an option to ease depression.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy for depression consists of various types of counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or a combination of these therapies. These "talk" therapies can help you gain better insight into your problems by discussing them with a therapist.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be very effective in treating many types of depression. This type of therapy will help you examine your feelings and thought patterns, learn to interpret them in a more realistic way, and apply various coping techniques to real-life situations.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy helps you examine disturbed personal relationships that cause or worsen your depression. This approach helps you learn to shift your attention away from your depression and toward your interactions with other people. The therapy can also help improve your communication skills and self-esteem.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is another type of therapy used to treat depression. It helps you to focus on resolving your conflicted feelings.

Education for Family Members

Your family members can also play a positive role in your recovery. A therapist can teach your family about depression and help them to adopt new coping strategies.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is considered an effective treatment for severe depression. ECT may be used in certain people with severe depression, such as:

  • People who present an immediate suicidal risk
  • Elderly patients with psychosis and depression
  • Pregnant women (only those with severe depression)
  • People who cannot take or do not respond to antidepressants

Hospitalization is not required for ECT. If you are to receive ECT, you will be given a muscle relaxant and anesthetic and will be carefully monitored throughout the procedure. A small amount of electric current will be sent to your brain. You may receive a number of these treatments over the course of several days, weeks, or months, depending on your condition. In addition, you may need to take a long-term antidepressant drug.

Possible side effects of ECT include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle soreness
  • Heart disturbances
  • Short-term confusion or memory lapses
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a therapy under study for the treatment of depression, as well as other disorders. It involves the use of a large electromagnetic coil placed near the left side of the forehead and painless electrical currents. It is done in a doctor’s office or clinic and lasts about 30-40 minutes. It is reserved for patients who have not been helped by standard treatments.

Phototherapy

Phototherapy involves sitting under special fluorescent lights for a prescribed amount of time per day, usually about 30 minutes every morning. It is most effective for seasonal affective disorder, but may be help along with other treatments for nonseasonal depression.

Dietary Changes and Supplements

Research suggests that diets high in tryptophan and certain B vitamins may be helpful. A Mediterranean diet may be associated with reduced risk for depression. There is also mixed evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce symptoms of depression. In addition, a hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), available as a dietary supplement, may help some people. Always discuss the use of supplements with your doctor.

Music Therapy

A trained music therapist creates a treatment plan that has music at its center. For example, treatment may involve listening to music, talking about lyrics, singing, or dancing. A number of studies have found that music therapy may be able to improve the symptoms of depression.