Talking therapies

When you have depression, talking to a trained professional (therapist) can help.

What therapy is

You may be put off by the words counselling or psychotherapy. You might believe that this type of treatment is only for people who are mentally ill. But this is not true.

People have counselling or psychotherapy to help them cope with issues such as:

  • depression
  • phobias
  • shyness
  • severe anxiety
  • eating disorders
  • panic attacks
  • sleeping disorders

Counselling and psychotherapy are not guaranteed to work for everyone, but they can help some people.

Types of therapists

Your therapist might be a:

  • counsellor
  • psychotherapist
  • psychologist
  • psychiatrist

There are many different types of therapists. Each has its own theory of human development and its own way of working. Some therapists use one type of therapy. Other therapists may combine parts of several different therapies into the way they work. It is very important that you feel comfortable with your counsellor or psychotherapist.

One type of talking therapy may be better for some problems and conditions than others. You might be better suited to some therapies than others. And there may be a particular type of therapy that is best for you and your situation.

Types of therapy

Any of these therapies might help if you have depression.


Counselling involves talking to a trained person (counsellor). Together you explore problems or issues in a safe and supportive environment.

Talking with a counsellor can help you sort out how you are feeling and find ways of coping.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

The word cognitive describes the mental process that you use to:

  • remember
  • reason
  • understand
  • solve problems
  • make judgements

The word behaviour describes your actions or reactions to something.

CBT aims to help you change how you respond to certain situations or emotions. It helps you understand how your thought patterns may contribute to your feelings of depression or fear.

This therapy also teaches you how to calm your body and mind. It helps you to control your feelings, think more clearly and generally have a more positive outlook. 


Psychotherapy usually involves talking to a trained therapist. Sometimes other methods may be used, such as music or art. It allows you to look deeper into your problems and worries. It can also help you to deal with problems such as depression or fear.

There are many different types of psychotherapy. It usually involves talking more about your past. Doing so helps you see how it influences how you respond to the problems you are facing in the present day.

One type of therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, focuses on your relationship with yourself and others. If you are interested in this type of therapy, it may be best to find a therapist who is experienced in working with people with cancer.

Combining antidepressants and therapy

You may have treatment with a combination of antidepressants and counselling or psychotherapy. This combination works well for many patients because the treatments complement each other.

Counselling and psychotherapy help antidepressants work and have a longer lasting effect. And in turn, antidepressants help you to get the most benefit from psychotherapy.

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