11 of the Best Ways to Treat Depression

11 of the Best Ways to Treat Depression
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

There’s not just one way to treat depression. Every person has their own black holes and hidden strengths. There are many different strategies that can be used to awaken those strengths and calm the desperation, the sleepless nights, the fear, and the apathy. Everyone is a prisoner in their own jail, and not all cells are unlocked by the same key.

When you’re diagnosed with depression, something changes inside you. One one hand, you feel relieved to finally have a medical diagnosis that can explain all the distress, fatigue, crying, and sadness. It’s a starting point to get you the help you need. But you also ask yourself the classic question – now what? Will my life be full of medication and therapy from this point on?

“Black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly come out in another universe.”

-Stephen Hawking-

Sometimes we have a limited view of how depression should be treated. Antidepressants aren’t the only strategy, and sometimes they’re not even necessary. This is something that only a professional should determine. It’s also important to know that dealing with a debilitating psychological condition is like a journey to find the best way home, to return to your own personal balance, to get back the strength you lost. The following techniques can help people with depression along this journey.

feet walking

1. Collaboration between different professionals

People are seeing more and more that primary care doctors prescribe antidepressants and anxiolytics too frequently. These doctors are generally the entry point into treatment for people seeking help, the first person they go to saying that they can’t go on anymore, that they need to sleep, to relax, to stop crying so much. But they’re not experts on psychological disorders.

In order to treat depression properly and comprehensively, we need more strategies, more professionals to work together. It’s essential for medical centers to also have psychologists and psychiatrists who can work in sync with primary care doctors. Even social workers are extremely helpful in most cases – don’t forget that in recent years we’ve seen that the populations most affected by depression are those with the least resources.

2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy

The most successful therapeutic approach for treating depression so far is cognitive-behavioral therapy. When combined with medication, significant advances can be made.

This therapy focuses on the person’s thought patterns, breaking down irrational ideas and promoting a progressive change in thinking. Patients learn to take back control and be more logical and realistic.

woman in therapy

3. Interpersonal psychotherapy

Like we said, there’s not just one way to treat depression. There are many different ways, and it’s necessary to find the one that fits best with the person’s needs. While cognitive-behavioral therapy tends to be one of the most effective, there are also other helpful approaches.

Interpersonal psychotherapy is useful when the depression is a result of problems in the patient’s interpersonal relationships (such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one). The goal is for the patient to address the stressful life events that happened, work on their self-esteem, and develop strategies to improve their relationships with others.

4. Emotionally focused therapy

Greenberg’s emotionally focused therapy is a combination of Rogerian humanistic therapy and Gestalt therapy. It’s very useful for treating depression, with the objective of helping the patient identify, work through, and process their emotions. The therapist provides a safe environment where the patient can manage their anxiety and work through difficult emotions.

5. Physical exercise

People with major depression often lack the strength and motivation to go swimming, ride a bike, or go to a zumba class. But whenever possible, it’s best for them to leave the house, feel the warmth of the sun, listen to the sound of the outdoors, and then walk. Simply walk.

Something as simple as walking for 20 minutes a day can be very beneficial.


man exercising

6. Eating well

Eating well won’t make your depression disappear, but it will make your immune system stronger and give your brain the nutrients it needs to favor the release of neurotransmitters that will help you feel better.

We recommend fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, and foods rich in magnesium.

7. St. John’s wort

There are studies that suggest St. John’s wort is a useful complementary tool to treat light or moderate depression. Just remember to see a specialist to figure out the right dose for you.

8. Getting a second opinion

There are many patients who show no improvement after trying various pharmacological and psychological treatments. At this point, it’s best to get a second opinion on your diagnosis. This is because personality disorders and other issues can hide behind depression and go unnoticed.

9. Social support

Medication can treat depression, but not cure it. Psychotherapy can treat it and help the patient develop coping strategies, but also can’t cure it. What can? Having the psychological support of others, trusting them, and feeling understood and cared for. This will work with the rest of the strategies to make treatment successful.

So let’s surround ourselves with people who can help us overcome difficult situations.

hands holding sun

10. New hobbies and interests

Your mind might not be receptive to finding new hobbies that motivate you and serve as reinforcement, but introducing small activities into your daily life that you enjoy, that relax you and interest you, can be an effective strategy to manage depression.

Painting, writing, music, and yoga are just a few examples of that kind of gratifying activity.

11. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

After getting through depression, the risk of relapse still exists. After two or three years, depression could come knocking at your door again.

To prevent this from happening, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an ideal technique. You can use breathing techniques and meditation every day to work through the negative thoughts that spring up in your mind like weeds.

The most important thing to understand is that there isn’t just one way to treat depression – there are dozens, maybe even hundreds. You just have to find the combination of strategies that fits best with your own needs. Seeking help from a psychologist or a psychiatrist can guide you towards the light that these strategies offer.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.