Matthew de Haan
Depression is a pretty easy place to find in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. With the cloudy weather and frequent rain showers persisting while most of the rest of the country is thawing out and warming up with spring, Seattleites can find themselves sinking into the muck and mire of depression pretty quickly. If you or someone you care about is battling with depression, you know how miserable it can be for those suffering from this energy-draining malady.
Why Seek Help for Depression?
It is important to seek help. Why? Because, while you might hope the feelings will just go away like a change in the weather, depressed feelings are often recurrent and difficult to change. This article will provide some helpful tips for shaking the funk of depressive symptoms and will briefly describe a Christian counselor’s behavioral activation approach to the treatment of depression.
What are Behavioral Approaches to Depression?
I use behavioral approaches when I see depressed symptoms because such approaches have been shown to be effective in many studies over the years . Behavioral approaches also utilize practical principles and straightforward interventions that are easy for depressed clients to understand. Behavioral activation (BA), as a treatment for depression, is based on the idea that the events in your life and how you respond to such events influence how you feel. From a behavioral perspective, I assume that one reason people get depressed is that their lives are providing too few rewards and too many problems. This is one reason why the beginning stages of therapy involve a fair amount of information gathering so that I can get to know you and understand who you are. Sometimes it is possible to easily identify stressors or problems; other times there are no clearly identifiable stressors, but there is still not adequate “reward” from the environment.
Engaging in the Right Activity
When people find life stressful or less rewarding, they are prone to pull away from the world around them and they often find that basic routines in their lives become disrupted. This can involve withdrawing from social activities or even lacking the motivation to pray or attend church. The desire to pull away from the world when feeling down is natural and understandable. The problem is that it can also intensify depression and pull you away from some of your most valuable resources. One of my goals in treating depression is to work with you to become more active and engaged in your life. However, BA is not just about “doing more” – if feeling better were that simple, you would have already done it. My expertise lies in helping you figure out what activities would be most helpful and what small and manageable steps you can take to get started.
What Can You Expect in Behavioral Counseling?
What can you expect when you come to work with me? Each session will involve developing practical and doable steps to engage in activities that improve mood and to solve specific life problems. We will also delve into your spiritual life to help you determine what areas of your faith life might need special attention. Between sessions, I might ask you to work on homework assignments that we can talk about and develop together. The primary goal of the homework will be to help you focus on reconnecting with or building parts of your life that increase feelings of pleasure or accomplishment and bring you closer to important life goals. Activating and engaging in specific ways can help you experience more reward and effectively solve life problems. When you are active, engaged in a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ, and solving problems effectively, it is likely that you will be moving toward important life goals and feeling better.
A Christian Counselor Can Support You in Your Battle with Depression
If this sounds like an approach that might be helpful for you or someone you care about, you may want to consider Christian counseling. As a Christian counselor who is experienced in working with the behavioral activation approach, I have found that it can be a valuable tool for those who struggle with depression.
Opened White Door in the Sky” courtesy of nattavut, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID #10047575; “Reward Icons” courtesy of digitalart, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID #10062974
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