Depression is a widespread problem, affecting around 1 million adults and 100,000 young people in Australia. Left untreated, it can lead to self-harm, suicidal thoughts and devastating consequences for entire families. Even mild forms of depression have negative effects on an individual's personal relationships, self-esteem and ability to work effectively and advance in their career. This is where help must come in.
While there is greater public awareness of mental illness than ever before, there is still debate around what comprises effective depression treatment. The use of medication, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI's), commonly referred to as anti-depressants, is extremely common, and necessary in many cases. The use of SSRI's to stabilize mood and to assist a person with severe or chronic forms of depression to live a normal life, is well understood.
However, for many people living with depression, medication should not be the sole depression treatment option. Seeing a counsellor on a regular basis will benefit greatly and can help lead an individual to full recovery, either used alone or in addition to medical treatment.
A qualified counsellor assists the person with depression to recognise the signs and symptoms they are living with, and to identify what worsens and alleviates them, and hopefully, to uncover the original cause of the condition to begin with. This is often not a pleasant or easy process, which is why a fully trained counsellor can gently lead a person experiencing a depressive episode towards a deeper understanding of the nature of their condition.
The counsellor will do this by listening, questioning, and mirroring back the concerns and feelings of their clients in an empathic way. It is not the role of the counsellor to tell the person what they should do or how they should feel, but merely to act as a sounding board within a supportive environment.
In the counselling environment, a person is allowed to open up fully if they wish to, releasing any emotion they might experience, or they can choose to withdraw completely if that is what feels best for them at the time. Many clients report feeling very safe in their sessions with a counsellor- it becomes a space where they do not have to pretend or put on a brave face to disguise their difficult emotions.
A counsellor aims to help empower their clients to handle the symptoms of their depression in a meaningful way, by identifying built up patterns of behaviour and implementing strategies for behavioural change. This does not mean there is no place for medication. In many situations anti-depressants may be necessary, but they should not be regarded as a quick fix to the problem of depression. Beneath the surface of life, a counsellor can help a person address their wellbeing at a fundamental level, working to ensure that the depression is managed deeply and effectively.