What does a Depression Counselor do?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A depression counselor offers services to treat those with depressive illnesses, but the matter is not that easily defined. What these counselors do depends on training, licenses, and clinical orientation, and these things can differ widely. There are some workers in this field who aren’t therapists, but have training in alternative medicines. Additionally, what depression counselors do can vary by work location and how people conduct their work: groups, online, telephone, therapy meetings, etc.

A psychiatrist may prescribe medicines to help a patient with depression.
A psychiatrist may prescribe medicines to help a patient with depression.

While any depression counselor tries to help people recover from or learn to live with ongoing depression, each counselor’s background can be different. In this field, there are licensed professional counselors, therapists with either a marriage and family therapy master’s degree or who possess a master’s in social work. Alternately, a depression counselor could be a psychologist or psychiatrist. Particularly if the counselor is a psychiatrist, he or she will utilize an element unavailable to the other psychotherapists because he can prescribe medicines to treat depression. Other therapists might work in conjunction with psychiatrists if a person requires medication to recover from this illness.

People who lack health insurance may still be able to find depression counseling at cheap prices.
People who lack health insurance may still be able to find depression counseling at cheap prices.

One reason it’s hard to say what the depression counselor does is because there are so many different approaches to treating depression. Some counselors rely on traditional psychotherapy methods where evaluation of childhood might be of most use. Others tend toward cognitive behavioral therapy methods, which work on identifying outdated and harmful core beliefs, and replacing them. Many counselors combine several methods at once and determine how best to treat each client based on response and individual needs.

In cases of severe depression, it may be wise to consult a psychiatrist before proceeding with counseling.
In cases of severe depression, it may be wise to consult a psychiatrist before proceeding with counseling.

Even with these different approaches, it is likely that the depression counselor would meet with clients, either singly or in groups, in a specific location, including online or over the phone, at least once a week. Depending on the approach, the number of meetings could be predetermined or open-ended. Together, the client and counselor would discuss and/or pursue other activities that could help with depression recovery.

People who frequently suffer from insomnia may benefit from depression counseling.
People who frequently suffer from insomnia may benefit from depression counseling.

There are many alternative medicines where people might bill themselves as a depression counselor. Some licensed hypnotherapists, acupuncturists, bodywork therapists and others offer treatment for this illness. They could also talk with clients and provide services in their area of expertise, which could vary greatly.

A depression counselor may treat more than one illness, and many therapists of any training background are simply called counselors. The best way to determine if a person has expertise in depression is to ask. It’s not a bad idea to read about treatments for depression beforehand to determine which methods are deemed effective and search for those clinicians offering those methods. Research suggests that the method matters less than the relationship between client and therapist.

While many depression counselors work in traditional office or group settings, there are changes in where people might work. Sometimes patients get therapy with licensed clinicians online or on the telephone. A number of clinicians in this field find such work satisfying and may have the flexibility to work principally from home.

Depression counselors may help couples deal with unresolved emotional issues.
Depression counselors may help couples deal with unresolved emotional issues.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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