Depression is a common, yet complex mental health disorder characterised by low mood, lack of interest in daily activities, lack of energy, etc. While medications are effective, therapy is also a crucial component of treatment for depression. However, with multiple approaches available, people often get confused about which therapy is the best for depression. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of therapy commonly used for depression and discuss their effectiveness based on research.

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most common and effective therapeutic approaches for treating depression. CBT is based on the assumption that our thoughts and behaviours influence our emotions. Thus, CBT focuses on helping people identify negative thought patterns that are common in depression and also replace them with more helpful thoughts.

CBT can be helpful for depression in various ways, such as
  • It can help individuals identify negative thought patterns that might be contributing to depressive symptoms
  • It can help replace negative thoughts with helpful ones through cognitive restructuring.
  • It can boost mood and self-esteem by encouraging people with depression to adopt positive self-talk

A detailed review of 115 studies published in 2020 found that CBT is a highly effective treatment for depression. The study also found that CBT is more effective when combined with medication than medication alone. Not only that, the study also found that relapse rates are lower for people undergoing CBT as compared to people who were only on medication. Thus, CBT is an effective approach to depression.

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

DBT is another subset of cognitive therapy. DBT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness and acceptance strategies. DBT encourages people with depression to learn skills so that they can effectively cope with difficult emotions that are a part of depressive symptoms. 

Additionally, it also encourages people to change maladaptive coping strategies such as social withdrawal, substance use, etc. and replace them with healthier coping mechanisms such as mindfulness, grounding techniques, muscle relaxation, physical exercises, creativity and other emotional regulation skills. DBT might be especially helpful for people who experience suicidal ideation or self-harming tendencies alongside depressive symptoms.

  • Behavioural Activation (BA)

BA is a treatment approach grounded in behavioural therapy. The idea behind behavioural activation is that people can change their emotions and improve their mood by deliberately engaging in certain activities that are likely to make them feel good. For example, someone with depression might be encouraged to go for a walk, talk to a friend, etc. 

Behavioural activation can help with depression by encouraging people to replace unhelpful patterns of behaviour with more productive or helpful behaviours. Additionally, it helps increase pleasurable feelings. Behavioral activation is often used alongside CBT for the best results

  • Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a unique approach that focuses on the acceptance of difficult thoughts and emotions while committing to values-based actions. Thus, ACT encourages people with depression to accept and observe depressive thoughts without trying to judge or avoid them, as avoiding depressive thoughts can worsen them over time. Additionally, ACT also encourages people to commit to actions that are based on their values, rather than being guided by their depressive symptoms. This commitment to values can decrease the powerful effects of depressive thoughts and feelings.

ACT can help with depression in the following ways:

  • ACT helps people  accept their feelings of sadness without judgment, which can reduce the intensity of these feelings over time
  • It encourages people to act based on their values instead of depressive symptoms
  • It can help boost self-esteem with the help of self-compassion exercises
  • Other Approaches

There are various other approaches to treating depression, such as

  • Psychodynamic approach, which explores unconscious feelings and past experiences that contribute to depression
  • Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), is another subset of CBT that focuses on changing negative self-talk.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) is another evidence-based therapy for depression that focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and communication skills


In summary, there are various approaches to treating depression, and each therapy comes with its strengths. Ultimately, choosing the best approach depends on various factors, including individual preferences, the severity of symptoms, and the underlying causes of depression. Sometimes, a combination of multiple approaches might be helpful as well, Thus, the key is to find a therapy that aligns with your goals, addresses your specific challenges, and promotes your well-being,


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  7. Zhao, B., Wang, Q., Wang, L., Chen, J., Yin, T., Zhang, J., Cheng, X., & Hou, R. (2023). Effect of acceptance and commitment therapy for depressive disorders: A meta-analysis. Annals of General Psychiatry, 22(1), 34.

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin