Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, the onset of which can be brought on or exacerbated by illness, accidents, hospitalizations or in those undergoing care. In and of itself, depression can cause significant disability. And for those already suffering some kind of impairment, depressive symptoms can double the burden.
As therapists, it is likely that you will come across patients suffering depression at some point in time. Therefore, it is wise to be informed about the various treatment options. In particular, physical and occupational therapists, being person-centered therapists, play an important role in assisting patients overcome depression – especially when these therapies are combined with other treatment options.
Approximately 11% of Americans over the age of 12 take antidepressant medication. However, recent evidence has shown that the gap effect seen between medication and placebo is sharply narrowing, even for those with severe depression. What this means is that most people do not see any real benefits from antidepressant medications.
Antidepressants also come with many side effects. And even more surprising is that, “antidepressants are prescribed for conditions other than depression nearly 50% of the time,” reports MedShadow.
Certainly for people with severe depression, pharmacological treatment appears to work to some degree. However, for those with depressive symptoms, which are not necessarily a major depressive disorder, considering other options is recommended.
Alternative Treatments for Depression Symptoms
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Offering psychotherapy is a very good option. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy, though considered very effective, aren’t utilized enough. For patients with functional limitations and those with fatigue or sleep issues, cognitive behavioral therapy is particularly useful.
Physical Activity and Physical Therapy
Physical activity is a great way to foster positivity. In fact, “for mild to moderate depression the effect of exercise may be comparable to antidepressant medication and psychotherapy.”
Researchers have shown that even in major depressive types, physical therapy helps minimize depressive feelings and makes people feel alive and giving to themselves. Given that many major depressive types experience despair, numbness and stagnation, this is considered a major effect.
Exercise not only improves physical function but relieves stress, reduces anxiety and improves coping strategies. It also improves quality of life and independence in older adults. Overall, physical therapy is a very effective treatment option for depression.
The Tree Theme method is a person centered occupational therapy method that teaches individuals strategies to become an actor in their daily lives.
The therapy is like a game and the intention is to help individuals become creative in finding alternate ways to change the actions in their everyday lives.
Several studies have indicated that frequent exposure to green space reduces depression, anxiety and stress. Having the ability to get outside from time to time to brighten the spirit could be particularly beneficial for patients in skilled nursing facilities or hospitals.
Complementary or alternative medicines and holistic lifestyle choices can also be beneficial in combination such as natural therapeutic agents, mindfulness and meditation, herbal medicines, or yoga.
Combination treatments are viewed as the most effective and appropriate treatment for depression. For example, psychotherapy combined with placebo has a better outcome than medication versus placebo alone. Or cognitive behavioral therapy used in conjunction with physical therapy provides greater outcomes.