Depending on the severity of your condition and your circumstances, there are several nondrug therapies that may help ease depression. Psychotherapy can be a very effective treatment for depression and may be used alone or in conjunction with medications. Electroconvulsive therapy is usually used only for severe depression, when other treatments fail to produce results.


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. This person may be able to share his or her perspective with you and is usually specially trained to assist people with mental health problems.

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 sometimes used to treat depression. It helps you to focus on resolving your conflicted feelings. This type of therapy is often reserved until your depressive symptoms have significantly improved.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as shock treatment, has been used since the 1930s. Since then, the technique has been improved significantly and 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


Phototherapy involves sitting under special fluorescent lights for a prescribed amount of time per day, usually about 30 minutes every morning.

Dietary Manipulations

Research suggests that diets high in tryptophan, certain B vitamins, and fish oil may be helpful in ameliorating or preventing depression. Always discuss the use of such supplements with your healthcare provider.