Counseling or therapy

Key Points:

  • Psychotherapy or counseling has been used for years to treat depression and has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment.
  • About 6 out of 10 people will feel much less depressed after eight to 20 sessions.
  • What you learn in therapy will give you the skills and insight to help you overcome depression.
  • Confidentiality: What you say to your therapist is kept between the two of you, and will not be shared with anyone else without your permission. Your therapist or counselor should explain confidentiality and its limits when you first meet.

Treatment with therapy or counseling

  • Different professionals provide different forms of therapy, depending on their training and where they work.
  • Therapists often use more than one form of therapy.
  • Treatment may be offered one-to-one (you alone with a therapist), in a group, or in a couple or family.
  • Research suggests that in most situations group treatment is as effective as one-to-one therapy.
  • About 6 out of 10 people will feel much less depressed after eight to 20 sessions of therapy or counseling.
  • If you do not feel better, talk to your therapist about making changes to the therapy approach. You may consider a different therapist or type of treatment (including medicine).
  • Some therapies shown to be effective in treating depression are:
    • Cognitive behavior therapy (commonly referred to as CBT), which focuses on understanding how thoughts and actions affect emotions.  The focus is on changing behaviour in ways that help with depression.
    • Emotion-focused therapy, which identifies a person’s emotional and self-critical patterns linked to depression.
    • Interpersonal therapy, which deals with problems in relationships that may be related to the development of depression.
    • Problem-solving therapy, which develops helpful approaches to understand and manage life problems.
    • Short-term psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on troubling feelings that stem from unresolved painful events.
    • Couple or family therapy, if couple or family issues are a concern.


Dobson, K. S., Hollon, S. D., Dimidjian, S., Schmaling, K. B., Kohlenberg, R. J., Gallop, R. J., . . . Jacobson, N. S. (2008). Randomized trial of behavioral activation, cognitive therapy, and antidepressant medication in the prevention of relapse and recurrence in major depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(3), 468-477.

Hollon, S. D., & Ponniah, K. (2010). A review of empirically supported psychological therapies for mood disorders in adults. Depression and Anxiety, 27(10), 891-932.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). (2009). Depression: The treatment and management of depression in adults – National clinical practice guideline. London: Author.

Parikh, S.V., Segal, Z.V., Grigoriadis, S., Ravindran, A.V., Kennedy, S.H., Lam, R.W., & Patten, S.B. (2009).  Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) clinical guidelines for the management of major depressive disorder in adults. II. Psychotherapy alone or in combination with antidepressant medication.  Journal of Affective Disorders, 117 (Suppl 1), :S15-S25. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.06.042.

Read More

Please See:

What to expect during counseling or therapy

What are the results over time?

What happens when counseling is completed?

What are the risks of therapy?

Who provides therapy or counseling?

Questions to ask when you are deciding on a counselor or therapist

How much does therapy or counseling cost?

Combining medication and therapy

Download: Fact Sheet: Counseling or therapy for depression on our Fact Sheets web page.